Although the days of smartphone-worn VR headsets are mostly over by now, there are still some mixed reality (XR) experiences that can still be powered by our mobile devices. Apple’s vision for its own AR ecosystem, for example, might be driven by an iPhone, but it isn’t really the first to venture into that space. Qualcomm has long been trying to make inroads in mobile XR, and its latest Snapdragon Spaces makes a big push to entice developers to jump on its platform, with some assistance from partners like T-Mobile and its 5G network.
Snapdragon Spaces builds up on the company’s XR1 AR Smart Viewer that it unveiled last February. Unlike the likes of Google’s Daydream View, you didn’t need to weigh your head down with a smartphone cradled inside a blocky headset. Unlike standalone VR headsets like the Oculus Quest 2, however, you still need to tether it to a Qualcomm-powered smartphone.
What Snapdragon Spaces adds is a complete ecosystem of hardware and software tools to get developers quickly started on developing AR content. Along with the hardware dev kit, Snapdragon Spaces ties into popular graphics and game engines like Epic Games’ Unreal Engine or Niantic Labs’ newly-launched Lightship AR platform. The goal is to help developers build immersive AR applications that can be distributed directly to consumers through the usual app store channels.
To make Snapdragon Spaces more widely available, however, Qualcomm needs to work with industry partners that will help take care of the multiple facets of an AR platform, from the smartphone to the AR glasses to the cellular network. Lenovo’s ThinkReality A3 smart glasses and an unnamed Motorola smartphone, for example, will be the first to commercialize this developer kit.
T-Mobile is also proudly announcing that Qualcomm has chosen it to be its exclusive partner in North America. In addition to access to its 5G network, which the carrier positions as a necessary ingredient for such innovations, T-Mobile is also using its Accelerator program to bring Snapdragon Spaces to startups and developers. All of these pieces will fall into place sometime in Spring 2022.