Monday, 15 November 2021 12:22

Snapdragon Spaces XR Developer Platform for creating AR experiences that adapt to the spaces around us


Qualcomm Technologies introduced Snapdragon Spaces XR Developer Platform, a headworn Augmented Reality (AR) developer kit to enable the creation of immersive experiences that seamlessly blur the lines between physical and digital realities.

Qualcomm state that with proven technology and an open, cross-device horizontal platform and ecosystem, Snapdragon Spaces delivers the tools to bring developers’ ideas to life and revolutionise the possibilities of headworn AR. Snapdragon Spaces is in early access with select developers and is expected to be generally available in the Spring of 2022 (Autumn here).

Proven technology and innovation

Qualcomm Technologies says it is a pioneer in augmented reality with over a decade of AR research and development. Utilising these years of innovation and expertise, Snapdragon Spaces offers robust machine perception technology that is optimised for performance and low power for the next generation of AR glasses.

The Snapdragon Spaces platform provides environmental and user understanding capabilities that give developers the tools to create headworn AR experiences that can sense and intelligently interact with the user and adapt to their physical indoor spaces. Some of the marquee environmental understanding features include spatial mapping and meshing, occlusion, plane detection, object and image recognition and tracking, local anchors and persistence, and scene understanding. The user understanding machine perception features include positional tracking and hand tracking, the company says.

Qualcomm Technologies states it has acquired the team and certain technology assets from HINS SAS and its wholly owned subsidiary, Clay AIR, Inc., a provider of hand tracking and gesture recognition solutions, which allows developers the ability to create interactive experiences that have natural and intuitive user interactions with their hands.

To continue to drive AR technology innovation, Qualcomm Technologies said it has welcomed Wikitude, a world-class AR technology provider to the Qualcomm family. With the launch of Snapdragon Spaces, the existing community of 150K+ registered Wikitude AR developers can join Qualcomm in accelerating the transition from smartphone to headworn AR.

Open cross-device platform and ecosystem

The company says that reducing development and commercialisation friction for the developer is at the heart of Snapdragon Spaces. The platform takes a direct-to-consumer approach that allows developers to build immersive applications for AR glasses and make them accessible to end users leveraging existing smartphone digital distribution stores globally.

Qualcomm says that Snapdragon Spaces includes software developer kits (SDKs) for leading 3D Engines, including Epic Games’ Unreal Engine so developers can create experiences using familiar 3D tools and workflows like Unreal’s real-time 3D creation tool for photoreal visuals and immersive experience. Niantic Inc.'s Lightship developer platform, launched this week, will integrate with Snapdragon Spaces to enable developers to create planet-scale AR experiences. The Lightship Platform will expand reach to outdoor headworn use cases and inspire people to explore outside, and to connect and play with others in real time through multi-player functions. This builds on the ongoing collaboration to create a reference design for AR headsets to accelerate AR software and hardware development. The Snapdragon Spaces platform also supports app portability and unified workflows with Unity AR Foundation and Unity MARS, enabling developers on the platform to create experiences that fully integrate with the real world. Snapdragon Spaces is based on the Khronos OpenXR specification to enable application portability and is the first headworn AR platform optimised for AR Glasses tethered to smartphones with an OpenXR conformant runtime, the company said.

The company went on to say that leading smartphone and AR hardware OEMs including Lenovo, Motorola, OPPO, and Xiaomi are initial partners to support Snapdragon Spaces in 2022, with the Lenovo ThinkReality A3 smart glasses paired with a Motorola Smartphone as the first to commercialise Snapdragon Spaces. Qualcomm Technologies is also working with an ecosystem of global operators, including Deutsche Telekom, NTT DOCOMO, INC. and T-Mobile U.S., with more global operators to be announced later. The operators will help scale and bring AR glasses tethered to smartphones supporting Snapdragon Spaces to commercialisation starting next year. To help fuel innovation and application development in the U.S. and Europe, both T-Mobile U.S. and Deutsche Telekom will support Snapdragon Spaces with their T-Mobile Accelerator innovation programs for developers of tech incubator hubraum.

Developer-first AR platform

Qualcomm said that Snapdragon Spaces enables developers to build 3D applications for AR glasses from scratch or simply add headworn AR features to existing Android smartphone applications to drive a unified, multi-screen experience between the smartphone screen in 2D and the real world in 3D. Developers will also receive a robust resource library that includes documentation, sample code, tutorials, knowledge bases, and tools to help accelerate their development. Snapdragon Spaces is in early access with innovative AR developers including Felix & Paul Studios, holo|one, Overlay, Scope AR, TRIPP, Tiny Rebel Games, NZXR, forwARdgame, Resolution Games, and Trigger Global.

Qualcomm also launched the Snapdragon Spaces Pathfinder Program, designed to support AR innovators through early access to platform technology, project funding, co-marketing and promotion, and hardware development kits to help grow an active community of Snapdragon Spaces developers. Interested developers can learn more and apply to the program by visiting the Snapdragon Spaces product page here.

“The Snapdragon Spaces XR Developer Platform underscores our commitment to empowering developers to explore bravely and create confidently, paving the way to a new frontier of spatial computing,” said Qualcomm Technologies vice president and general manager of XR Hugo Swart. “Snapdragon Spaces is designed to support the democratisation of XR by taking a horizontal, open channel approach so developers can rapidly bring their ideas to life and reach a wide range of end users. We welcome developers to join us in this journey to reimagine reality.”

Epic Games vice president and GM unreal engine Marc Petit said, "At Epic we are working to build an open metaverse where creators can conceive, share, and deliver incredible real-time 3D experiences and find success through favourable business models. Today we're thrilled to be here with Qualcomm Technologies for the launch of Snapdragon Spaces, supporting their developer-first approach with Epic MegaGrants for AR glasses creators -- the first project being with the award-winning team at Felix & Paul.

“Integrating Unreal Engine with Snapdragon Spaces will empower creators to build beautiful, high-fidelity AR apps that can be enjoyed anywhere, anytime. We look forward to working with Qualcomm Technologies to accelerate the dynamic, socially connected worlds of the future."

Deutsche Telekom AG head of group partnerships and devices Sean Seaton said, “Deutsche Telekom engagement in augmented and virtual reality had already several successful XR product launches for both consumer and business customers.

“Our ambition is to actively support and accelerate the Snapdragon Spaces platform with the best of our expertise and indispensable assets we have: 5G Network, content & services and hubraum, our developer and tech incubation arm, which successfully executed world class innovation programs with developers. We are excited to push headworn AR together with the power of T-Mobile USA and other leading Telcos towards the next level.”

NTT DOCOMO general manager of product department Seiji Abe said, INC “We believe that Snapdragon Spaces addresses the developer issue of fragmentation. This will help accelerate adoption of the use-cases that our customers want to see in AR.

“XR has the potential to change the current paradigm and create a new communication culture in the 5G era. Headworn AR use-cases are a great example of the need for high bandwidth, low latency that our 5G networks provide. As a network operator, DOCOMO is passionate about contributing to the development of the XR domain in the Japanese market through a collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies with Snapdragon Spaces.”

This first appeared in the subscription newsletter CommsWire on 10 November 2021.

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Chris Coughlan

A versatile technology executive with extensive experience in most disciplines and technologies in the Information and Communications Technologies sector. Roles have encompassed general management, product management, business development, sales management, industry marketing, operations management, research and development, business case development, market research and forecasting, regulatory, strategy management, solution development, major project construction, process design and management, technology and management consulting, and engineering.

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