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Qualcomm see a bright future for the Metaverse

Hot on the heels of announcements at MWC Barcelona, comes news that Qualcomm have launched a US$100M Snapdragon Metaverse Fund to invest “extended reality (XR) developers and companies building the foundational technologies and content ecosystem to enable the metaverse.” XR is an umbrella term given to augmented, virtual, and mixed reality technologies, where:

  • Virtual Reality, or VR, is a computer-generated environment that users can interact with using a headset, such Meta’s Oculus Quest 2 and HTC’s Hive Pro 2, haptic gloves and suits;

  • Augmented Reality, or AR, is the overlaying of computer-generated images onto a user’s view of the physical world, via a headset, smart glasses, or a smartphone (think Pokémon Go, which overlays images of Pokémon, fictional creatures, onto the real world as seen through a smartphone’s camera); and

  • Mixed Reality, or MR, is the combination of VR and AR to blend digital and physical content such that virtual objects appear as a natural part of the real world, effectively blurring the line between what’s real, and what isn’t. For example, the future of home working might involve you sitting at home, but using a virtual screen, alongside virtual representations of your colleagues.

Announced on the opening day of this year’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, the Snapdragon Metaverse Fund follows several Qualcomm XR initiatives to “strengthen the XR ecosystem.” Companies and developers will be able to access the fund via the venture capital arm of Qualcomm, Qualcomm Ventures, and a grant programme aimed at developing gaming, health and wellness, media, entertainment, education, and enterprise experiences.

This is the next step in Qualcomm’s investment in the Metaverse. Back in 2018, Qualcomm introduced an XR chipset called the Snapdragon XR1, which was aimed at OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and was used in Vuzix’s M400 headset and Google’s Glass Enterprise 2 smart glasses. In 2019 Qualcomm followed up with Snapdragon XR2, which made it easier for companies to combine the virtual, real, and augmented worlds through AI (artificial intelligence) technology and 5G connectivity – Meta’s Oculus Quest 2 uses the Snapdragon XR2 chipset. Snapdragon Spaces, first announced in November 2021, provides developers with a suite of software development tools that can be used to create applications for AR glasses. And in February of this year Qualcomm announced that it was opening XR Labs in six European cities focused on XR research and development, engineering, and technology development.

Overall, these investments suggest that Qualcomm see a bright future in wearables and applications that are reliant on the Snapdragon chipset.

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