At the end of October, Facebook changed its name to Meta, which was an important step in Facebook’s transformation into a “metaverse company” and led to more discussion about the Metaverse.
The metaverse does not have a clear and unambiguous definition. Simply understood, the metaverse is a reflection of the real world in the virtual world.
Since we want to map the real world, the difficulty can be imagined. AR, VR, MR (collectively referred to as XR) should be the devices that are currently closely related to the Metaverse, but XR devices are still in the early stage, and we want to realize the Metaverse and promote XR devices. Development is the key.
Today, Qualcomm, which has been investing in the XR field for ten years, launched the Snapdragon Spaces XR developer platform, a head-mounted AR development kit. The goal is to lower the threshold for developers to develop AR applications, realize the cross-platform operation of AR applications, and promote the popularity of AR. and the development of the Metaverse.
Metaverse and XR
The metaverse is a buzzword, but it’s not a new concept.
The 1992 science fiction novel “Avalanche” wrote, “As long as you put on headphones and eyepieces, find a terminal, you can enter another three-dimensional reality simulated by the computer through the connection. Everyone can be in this parallel with the real world. Have your own avatar in the virtual space.”
The concept of the Metaverse, which was proposed 29 years ago, will become an overnight success in 2021. It is closely related to the listing of Roblox, the first multiplayer online sandbox game platform in the Metaverse this year, and is also inseparable from Facebook, Tencent, and NVIDIA. , the participation of giants such as ByteDance.
Most people have seen Facebook’s renaming of Meta, but it is easy to ignore Facebook’s VR device Oculus Quest2, which is also a smart device closely related to the Metaverse. Since its release in October 2020, its shipments have repeatedly hit new highs. The strength of the universe company lies.
Roblox believes that a true metaverse product should have 8 attributes: identity, friends, immersion, low latency, diversity, anywhere, economic system and civilization. XR devices apparently share many of these features.
Hugo Swart, vice president and general manager of XR business at Qualcomm Technologies, said: “The Metaverse and XR are closely linked, and people can have their own avatars in the virtual world for collaboration, communication, learning and entertainment. Many refer to the metaverse as the ‘Embodied internet,’ which means programming computation and processing in space.”
Si Hongguo also explained the current and upcoming changes from the concept of computing and interaction, “In the past few decades, people have been using 2D screens (notebooks, smartphones, tablet computers) to complete computing functions. With VR and AR technology , computing has evolved to the stage of spatial computing. That is to say, the screen in the traditional sense disappears, and the whole world becomes your ‘home screen’, and this transformation has just begun.”
XR from vertical integration to horizontal expansion
In fact, Qualcomm has been promoting the development of XR, which is closely related to the Metaverse. In 2007, Qualcomm launched the first smartphone-based AR research and development project, and then launched XR-specific chipsets – Snapdragon XR1 and Snapdragon XR2. In 2018, Qualcomm and its partner Nreal introduced the concept of AR glasses, and in 2019 AR glasses became a product category.
During this process, the entire AR and VR industry has also experienced peaks and valleys. In 2015, the scale of domestic VR investment increased from 270 million to 2.4 billion, an 8-fold increase in one year. The following year, 2016, was called “the first year of VR”.
However, soon, due to the unresolved technical challenges, the VR equipment has a strong sense of dizziness, there are not many games and content, and the VR equipment with poor experience has not been popularized. The VR investment bubble also burst, and the industry fell into a trough.
However, with the improvement of technology and the gradual development of software and application ecology, after the completion of better vertical integration of XR equipment, various forms of products, including AR glasses, smart glasses, and commercial VR all-in-one machines can provide better A good experience is accepted by more consumers.
This year, both the number of products released and the number of shipments in the XR industry seem to indicate that the development of the XR industry has ushered in a new high.IDC predicts that global VR shipments will reach 8.3 million units in 2021, an increase of 50.2% over the full year of 2020.
“The industry is still in a relatively early stage of development, and we expect shipments of such devices to start growing next year and reach a higher level of maturity in 2023,” Si Hongguo expects.
When more people have XR devices, to attract more people to use XR devices, applications become the key, and the key to rich applications is the software development platform. After Qualcomm, which has been working in this industry for more than a decade, acquired Wikitude, the world’s first mobile AR application release and responsible for the development of AR software development kits, today announced the launch of the Snapdragon Spaces XR developer platform, a head-mounted AR development kit.
The Snapdragon Spaces platform provides context and user understanding capabilities, giving developers the tools to create user-aware and intelligently interact with the user, adapting to the user’s indoor physical space for head-mounted AR experiences. Some of the main environment understanding features include: spatial mapping and spatial meshing, occlusion, plane detection, object and image recognition and tracking, local anchors and their persistence, and scene understanding. Machine perception features that enable user comprehension include location tracking and gesture recognition.
In short, Snapdragon Spaces can help developers build two types of applications, one is to create a 3D experience from scratch, and the other is to support AR features, that is, AR as an extension of existing mobile applications.Snapdragon Spaces has three important characteristics: mature technology and innovation; an open, cross-terminal AR ecosystem; and a developer-first platform.
“I would like to emphasize the openness of Snapdragon Spaces, which complies with the OpenXR standard, which lowers the threshold for developers to use Snapdragon Spaces. At the same time, we also cooperate with Epic Games and Unity on the engine to facilitate the development of such 3D tools. to migrate applications to the Snapdragon Spaces platform.”Si Hongguo said, “If each OEM develops the underlying functions independently, it may lead to an island effect, because it is difficult for developers to copy applications from one platform to another. Snapdragon Spaces can run across terminals, OPPO, Xiaomi, Vendors such as Lenovo, Motorola, and Niantic have all announced support.We are also partnering with the mobile operator ecosystem, including NTT DOCOMO, T-Mobile and Deutsche Telekom, to advance AR. “
Snapdragon Spaces supports both smartphones and glasses devices, including glasses devices using the Snapdragon XR1 platform and XR2 platform.
AR has the potential to replace smartphones
Among the three features of Snapdragon Spaces, the developer-first feature is a bit surprising.
In the past, Qualcomm usually provided core technology and feature support for OEM customers, but this time it regards developers as the key customers of Snapdragon Spaces, and launched the “Snapdragon Spaces Pathfinder Program”AR innovators or enterprises can obtain platform technology, project funding, joint marketing and promotion, and hardware development kit support in advance, including application developers such as fitness and table games. The official launch time is spring 2022.
Why did Qualcomm make the change?
“We found that a new model of developing or creating space experience and 3D experience has emerged in the industry. Under the new model, if every OEM and ODM manufacturer launches their own development platform, it will be very difficult for developers.” Si Hongguo explained: For Qualcomm, we continue to provide support to OEM customers to help them launch new applications on distribution channels and maintain their differentiated advantages; at the same time, we also provide developers with a common platform to help developers more easily in Snapdragon Spaces Create a great space experience on the platform. “
It is not difficult to see that when AR hardware is gradually improving, to promote the rapid development of AR, it is necessary to rely on developers and applications. As an important promoter in this field, the launch of the software platform Snapdragon Spaces meets the needs of the industry.
But will Snapdragon Spaces be the Android of the smartphone age? Si Hongguo made it clear, “We will not charge for Snapdragon Spaces.”
In fact, Qualcomm is optimistic about the current development and future potential of AR.
“We see VR gaining momentum in the short term, especially in areas such as gaming, fitness, B2B, and the practice of metaverse concepts. But we think AR glasses have the potential to even replace smartphones in the future.” Hongguo said.
“We expect that in the next three to five years, AR glasses, smart glasses, and commercial VR all-in-one devices will gradually converge, and eventually form an ultimate device form that can realize all experiences. But for VR and MR devices, this will be achieved. A trend may take longer because the Display modules of these devices support optical see-through, and they are deployed very differently.”
write at the end
The concept of the metaverse is on fire in 2021, and Qualcomm, which has been investing in the XR field for more than a decade, has become a beneficiary. Of course, after years of hard work, providing the underlying technical support, and experiencing the ups and downs of the XR industry, Qualcomm hopes that after the release of more than 50 XR devices based on the Snapdragon platform, it will continue to improve the hardware and use the development platform to promote market development faster. .
The key issue is that providing a software developer platform is not Qualcomm’s strong point, but Qualcomm can leverage the advantages of giant companies and acquire corresponding technologies and talents through acquisitions. Through the acquisition of Clay AIR and Wikitude, there is hope through the combination of hardware and software products. Promote the development of XR at a faster speed, making XR a new growth point for Qualcomm and a leader in the metaverse era.
It also needs to be seen that Qualcomm has given priority to AR.