Qualcomm is introducing a wireless version of its augmented reality Smart Viewer, a reference design that manufacturers can adapt to commercial headsets. The Wireless AR Smart Viewer updates Qualcomm’s previous smart glasses design with a more powerful chipset, plus a tethering system that uses Wi-Fi 6/6E and Bluetooth instead of a USB-C cable. That comes with the consideration of a potential all short battery life – although Qualcomm says consumer-ready versions may be designed differently.
The new Smart Viewer was developed by Goertek. It is currently available to some manufacturing partners with plans to expand access in the coming months. Like its predecessor, it connects to a phone or computer and delivers mixed reality experiences with full head and hand tracking, using tracking cameras and projections powered by micro-OLED screens. Qualcomm has kept the previous 1920×1080 resolution and 90Hz refresh rate, but it narrows the field of view slightly, lowering it from 45 degrees to 40 degrees diagonally.
That’s significantly smaller than the non-consumer-oriented Magic Leap 2, which is closer to 70 degrees. But in its favor, the Smart Viewer has a slimmer profile than the wired Smart Viewer or most of its competitors. The frame is 15.6mm deep compared to about 25mm for the wired version, softening the typical bug-eyed look of AR glasses. (This shallower design, which uses free form opticsmay be much harder to achieve with a wider field of view.) At 115 grams, it’s a bit heavier than the 106-gram Nreal Light goggles, a bit lighter than Apple’s rumored 150 grams of AR/VR headset, and much slimmer than VR headsets like the 503-gram Meta Quest 2.
The wireless viewer uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 chipset compared to the previous model’s XR1 — something Qualcomm says offers more power for computer vision processing and other tasks. Qualcomm promises a fast 3ms latency between the glasses and the connected phone or PC, as long as your phone or PC contains Qualcomm’s FastConnect 6900 chipping. (That’s not a given for many machines.) Qualcomm AR/VR head Hugo Swart says the actual “movement to photon” latency is less than 20ms, well over the threshold for a comfortable mixed reality experience.
A wireless headset has been on Qualcomm’s roadmap for years, but the Smart Viewer still highlights one of AR’s lasting challenges: creating powerful glasses that won’t run out of power almost immediately. Swart told reporters that the most demanding virtual experiences can drain the headset’s 650mAh battery in 30 minutes, though he stressed that a light, simple virtual overlay could use much less power. Users can also connect an attachable battery with a cable, and Swart said manufacturers could choose to prioritize a headset that lasts longer in their own design. But current technology probably can’t support some of AR’s most obvious uses, like creating a set of virtual monitors that you can use at work throughout the day.
We haven’t been able to try the new Smart Viewer ourselves, and consumers may never buy hardware that looks exactly like the reference design, because manufacturers were able to customize the system to their own specifications. While Swart said Qualcomm was working with “at least four” manufacturers, he didn’t name them or say how long it would take to get the headset to market. But Qualcomm’s earlier designs have anchored products like the Nreal Light and Lenovo ThinkReality A3 glasses — so it’s a prime example of what wireless headsets could look like in the months and years to come.