Qualcomm’s new headset with eye-tracking soon to ship to developers

Qualcomm is launching a development kit on the basis of its Snapdragon 845 VR platform in the Q2 of this year. The self-contained headset and software development kit will relay key elements of Qualcomm’s mobile chip-based VR system, as well as a full inside-out motion tracking and a partnership with eye tracking company Tobii. It support HTC’s Vive Wave platform designed to let VR developers build and sell software across multiple brands of headsets as well.

Qualcomm has before now touted its plans for “inside-out” tracking with simultaneous localization and mapping that lets people walk around without external markers, using fron-facing cameras and internal sensors. Qualcomm’s development kit does not include fully tracked motion controllers like Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality headsets or Oculus’ Santa Cruz prototype. However, it offers more freedom than all-in-one systems like the upcoming Oculus Go headset that only tracks head rotation. It is also not tethered to a computer unlike Windows Mixed reality.

Qualcomm’s development kit carries with it a single 2560 x 1440 WQHD display (for a resolution of 1280 x 1440 per eye, at a 60Hz refresh rate), 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. The above specs are not the main draw for the headset. The most exciting feature of the kit is a pair of cameras pointed at the wearer’s eyes powered by Tobii eye-tracking technology. Eye tracking can be used as a direct control scheme, but it’s more useful for foveated rendering which lets cheaper headsets power more exacting experiences by only fully depicting parts of the screen the player watches.

This is the third major iteration of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon-based VR headset which is not marketed to consumers like the past ones. Qualcomm noted that makers of VR headsets are already using its previous chipsets: Lenovo’s Mirage Solo and HTC’s Vive Focus are both based on the Snapdragon 835. If Qualcomm ships development kits for the Snapdragon 845 soon, the commercial products based on it are certainly not far behind.

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