Qualcomm's new XR1 AR Smart Viewer design can tether to smartphones and PCs

With the introduction of its XR1 platform, Qualcomm indicated that AR would be something of a big focus for it, and now it has announced a new AR Smart Viewer reference design. We've already seen Smart Viewer reference designs from Qualcomm in the past, but those focused more on a combined AR and VR experience. This new reference design seems to be focused wholly on AR, and as a result, it has more versatility than so-called "Simple" AR Smart Viewers that connect to a smartphone and are aimed primarily at streaming media.

Qualcomm says that its new reference design can connect with a number of external devices to offload processing, whether that's a smartphone, Windows PC, or even a processing puck. The XR1 Smart Viewer itself is actually capable of split-processing and making on-device optimizations, which Qualcomm says will "deliver a 30% reduction in overall power consumption on the system" over a simple AR Smart Viewer.

The reference design also allows users to run multiple smartphone apps as virtual displays – the same is true for PC windows when the AR viewer is tethered to a PC. The reference design is also outfitted with an 8MB RGB camera and dual monochrome cameras that enable six degrees of freedom head and hand tracking. It seems this new reference design shares a few similarities to the reference design Qualcomm launched back in 2019, though there are some key differences.

While the Smart Viewer from 2019 was built with a VR form factor, there's also a difference in display quality, as this one features a BOE-made micro-OLED display that supports refresh rates up to 90Hz. The displays in 2019's reference design only supported refresh rates up to 72Hz, so AR Smart Viewers using this reference design should offer higher and smoother frame rates.

Unfortunately, we don't have more specifics about this reference design just yet, but it shouldn't be long before we start seeing devices that were developed with it. Qualcomm, for instance, says that Lenovo's new ThinkReality A3 smart glasses were developed "in parallel" with this new reference design, and that should be available to enterprise customers in the middle of this year. Qualcomm says the reference design is available to "select partners" now, and availability is set to expand in the coming months, so we'll let you know when we hear more.