2021 Augmented World Expo: Chipmaker Qualcomm Aims To Help Build 'The Metaverse'


When something so big moves, others will follow. This is inevitable, since anything in the tech industry tends to gravitate to whatever is influencing them.

And when big player started talking about "the metaverse," with Facebook renaming itself to become Meta, followed by Microsoft with its own, Samsung with its own chip business and others, Qualcomm does not want to be left behind.

The chipmaker is also trying to get into the metaverse trend by announcing its own Augmented Reality (AR) attempt.

In the 2021 Augmented World Expo, Qualcomm revealed its Snapdragon Spaces Developer Platform, a kit that will help developers expand their existing apps and create new ones to take advantage of AR devices people wear on their head.

Snapdragon Spaces

The company describes it as a multi-device AR development platform and ecosystem, where Qualcomm is hoping to provide the building blocks for creating new AR apps intended for next-generation headsets and beyond.

As 5G becomes widely available on more mobile devices, and as more of those devices are powered by Qualcomm's chips, Qualcomm is expecting to make AR more accessible by lowering the barriers for developers to build AR experiences.

Metaverse is where the real world interest the digital world, through devices that make experience go beyond traditional screens.

Through smart glasses and its peripherals, users can have their senses enter the digital world, and experience interactivities that go beyond what is usual.

Qualcomm is best known for its ARM-based mobile chips, cellular modems and IP.

For a long time, hardware has been Qualcomm's strength. But through Snapdragon Spaces, the company is creating the software foundation for the metaverse.

Through Snapdragon Spaces, Qualcomm wants to be at the center of the metaverse, by providing the bridge that connects future phones with future smart glasses.

Pivoting to AR development is predicted, since its Snapdragon XR2 chip is already powering a number of popular headsets, including the Oculus Quest 2, Microsoft Hololens 2 and HTC Vive Focus 3.

And due to Qualcomm’s wide range of business partners, a number of big names have already pledging their support on the development of Snapdragon Spaces.

From Lenovo to T-Mobile, Xiaomi, ViacomCBS, Oppo, Motorola, and others, have expressed their interest in using Snapdragon Spaces.

"Dating back to 2007, we had R&D programs, looking into augmented reality with algorithms like VIO [visual-inertial odometry] on smartphones," as explained by Hugo Swart, Qualcomm’s VP and GM for Snapdragon Spaces XR.

"We enabled, through the last decade, devices like ODG. In 2014, we created new chips dedicated to virtual reality and augmented reality — and we are here for the long run. We know that we’re not there — it’s still going to require investment until we get to the holy grail of AR glasses that can do both fully immersive and augmented experiences."

To embrace developers, Qualcomm allows developers to use Snapdragon Spaces to build 3D applications for AR glasses from scratch or simply add head-worn AR features to existing Android smartphone applications "to drive a unified, multi-screen experience between the smartphone screen in 2D and the real world in 3D."

Developers can also use Snapdragon Spaces to gain access to a robust resource library "that includes documentation, sample code, tutorials, knowledge bases, and tools to help accelerate their development.”

Snapdragon Spaces is meant to be an open cross-device platform and ecosystem designed to support a wide range of AR device.

They include standalone AR glasses and smartphone-powered AR devices, while also supporting SDKs for a lot of game development engines such as Unreal Engine and Niantic’s Lightship platform, to help better bridge the gap between traditional 3D and new AR development.

Initially made available to a number of developers through early access, Snapdragon Spaces is unlike more traditional development platforms like Unity or Unreal Engine.

This is because it provides a slightly different set of development tools meant to better facilitate apps that need to recognize and interact with the real world using augmented reality, thanks to support for spatial mapping, plane detection, object tracking and recognition, AR anchors, and more.

"We share a common vision for creating experiences that fuse the digital and real worlds," said John Hanke, founder and CEO of Niantic, in a quote provided by Qualcomm.

"What Snapdragon Spaces will achieve for people with AR glasses indoors complements our goal for developers to build planet-scale AR applications on multiple devices and form factors."

Qualcomm also announced the acquisition of hand-tracking technology company Clay AIR.

Along with acquiring object-recognition company Wikitude, Qualcomm is snatching whatever it is needed to complete its venture into the metaverse.