Qualcomm kick-starts standalone VR with its VR820 headset

— 10:38 AM on September 1, 2016

While Oculus' Rift and HTC's Vive have dominated the conversation about VR in the enthusiast space, there's a burgeoning range of companies thinking about ways to deliver VR experiences that don't require a tether to a powerful gaming PC. Samsung's Gear VR is just one example, but Intel's Project Alloy and the AMD-powered Sulon Q also promise a cordless, entry-level VR experience. Qualcomm is getting in on this game today with an ambitious VR reference platform of its own called the VR820. Produced in partnership with Chinese electronics developer Goertek, the VR820 will serve as both a standalone product and as a reference platform for other companies to develop VR headsets of their own.

As standalone VR platforms go, the VR820 appears to pull out all the stops. The headset uses a Snapdragon 820 SoC to power a 2880x1440 AMOLED display refreshing at 70Hz. That figure translates to a 1440x1440 pixel array per eye. The VR820 includes a pair of eye-tracking cameras that allow the headset to perform foveated rendering, a technique that makes more efficient use of graphics-processing resources for VR. It also has a pair of front-facing cameras that Qualcomm suggests can be used for hand-tracking or augmented-reality applications. The VR820 also purports to perform "six degrees of freedom" head-tracking without any external trackers, unlike the Rift and Vive.

The VR820 is doubtless Android-powered, since Qualcomm touts its own Snapdragon VR SDK as the development toolkit for the platform. Qualcomm expects to start delivering VR820s in the fourth quarter of this year, and it anticipates that partner devices will become available "shortly thereafter." While there's no official word on pricing yet, Qualcomm told The Verge that the VR820 could have a sticker "similar to higher-performance tablets."

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