Thursday, September 1, 2016

Qualcomm VR820 is a standalone mobile VR headset with positional tracking


​Qualcomm announced the VR820, a reference platform for a standalone VR headset with positional tracking.


Mobile VR headsets such as the Samsung Gear VR (reviewed here) can provide a pretty good VR experience but they lack positional tracking -- the ability to adjust for the user's body movement (not just head movement).  Without positional tracking, the user feels no sense of presence (the illusion of feeling like you are somewhere else).


Qualcomm's VR820 is a standalone VR headset that operates without a mobile phone and is not tethered to a PC.  It uses two cameras for inside-out tracking (i.e., without external sensors) with positional tracking and 6 degrees of freedom.  It can also use the cameras for see-through applications.

Here are the other key specifications:
  • Resolution: 1440 x 1440 per eye, 70 fps
  • Capable of playing 360 4k video with H.265 (HEVC) compression at 70 fps
  • tracks 6 degrees of freedom sampled at 800 hz
  • 360-degree audio
  • motion to photon latency under 18ms

Amazingly, the VR820 can do all this with the Snapdragon 820 processor, the same processor used in some of the latest high-end smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Note 7.  Part of the reason is that the VR820 uses eye tracking and foveated rendering.  The VR820 detects what the user is looking at, and reserves high resolution rendering for that portion of the image only.  This reduces the processor's workload tremendously, without noticeable deterioration in image quality.

The VR820 is expected to be available Q4 2016, with retail units available "shortly thereafter."  Here is the official announcement.