Right now there are pretty much two types of virtual reality headsets.
There are some that connect to a PC to deliver high-performance graphics and motion sensing, enabling “six degrees of freedom” by letting you walk around a room and interact with virtual environments. The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are prime examples.
The other type of headset is based on smartphones (or smartphone-like hardware). Put a phone in a headset (or buy an all-in-one headset) and you don’t have to worry about tripping over wires. But you generally get less processing power and less motion support.
Qualcomm’s new VR Development Kit could change that. The company has unveiled a new kit that offers motion tracking and eye-tracking features to enable 6-degrees of freedom, support for gesture-based input (use your hands and fingers as controllers), and eye-tracking technology to better enhance visuals based on what you’re looking at.
The new kit is expected to be available in the second quarter of 2017 and it’s aimed at developers rather than the general public. Qualcomm has no plans to sell VR headsets to consumers. Instead, the company is creating a platform that it hopes other companies will adopt when developing their own headsets.
The development kit is a wearable headset with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, a 2560 x 1440 pixel AMOLED display (which means each eye essentially sees a 720p screen), 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of UFS flash storage.
It supports WiFi and Bluetooth and has a USB 3.1 port for power. There’s a trackpad on the right side of the head-mounted display for input. And there’s an integrated audio codec.
There are also two monochromatic VGA cameras pointed at your eyes to follow your gaze, motion sensors to track your movement through space, and two monochromatic 1280 x 800 cameras for motion tracking.
Qualcomm has partnered with Leap Motion for hand tracking features, and the eye-tracking helps the virtual reality system make better use of limited resources by rendering contact that you’re looking directly at and using less detail for other items that are in your peripheral view.