Qualcomm unveiled Snapdragon Spaces, a developer kit that is worn on the head and is meant to be used for creating AR applications, or adding it to existing Android applications.

Snapdragon Spaces builds on Qualcomm’s existing XR1 and XR2 5G platforms, and incorporates spatial mapping and meshing, occlusion, plane detection, local anchors and persistence, and scene understanding, the chipmaker stated.

In addition, the platform will incorporate expertise gained from two recent acquisitions, Qualcomm revealed. HINS SAS and its Clay AIR subsidiary bring hand tracking and gesture recognition, while Wikitude adds object and image recognition and tracking technology.

Hugo Swart, Qualcomm VP and GM, XR, told reporters he foresees “head-worn AR replacing every screen that we have” as the tech evolves. “We’re going to a world where that 2D screen really disappears”, he predicted during a briefing.

In forecasting a 3D fusion of the virtual and physical worlds, Swart is joined by a number of high-profile tech executives, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who has renamed his company Meta as a reference to the metaverse.

In the real world
Lenovo’s ThinkReality A3 smart glasses paired with a Motorola smartphone will be the first commercial implementation of Snapdragon Spaces, Qualcomm stated. The chipmaker added Xiaomi and Oppo are also set to support Snapdragon Spaces, which is scheduled for general availability next spring.

Qualcomm also named mobile network operators Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile US and NTT DoCoMo as partners expected to tether AR glasses to smartphones, supporting  the commercialisation of Snapdragon Spaces.

“AR glasses will make a real impact for both businesses and consumers”, stated T-Mobile US president of technology Neville Ray. “But first we need to build the ecosystem of developers that will bring new applications to life and Snapdragon Spaces is a critical step in making this happen”.

To build the developer ecosystem, Qualcomm is supporting many existing 3D environments, including those created by Epic Games, Unity and Niantic. This week Niantic launched a new platform called Lightship which integrates Snapdragon Spaces to enable developers to create outdoor AR experiences, the companies explained.

AR developers will also gain support from Qualcomm’s Pathfinder Programme, which will provide platform technology, project funding, co-marketing and promotion, and hardware development kits for Snapdragon Spaces.

Finally, the Wikitude acquisition brings more developers into Qualcomm’s orbit by delivering a community of 150,000 coders in 180 countries, the chipmaker stated.

“We believe that Snapdragon Spaces addresses the developer issue of fragmentation”, stated Seiji Abe, GM of product department, NTT DoCoMo. “XR has the potential to change the current paradigm and create a new communication culture in the 5G era”.