Qualcomm announces two new Snapdragon chips for next-gen headsets and smart glasses

The Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 is powering the new Quest 3 while the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses are getting the Snapdragon AR1 Gen 1.

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Developed in collaboration with Meta, on Wednesday Qualcomm announced two new Snapdragon chips designed to power the upcoming wave of next-gen headsets and smart glasses.

The Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 is the more powerful of the two boasting 2.5 times better GPU performance compared to the last generation and up to eight times faster AI speeds. It's optimized to support mixed reality devices with display resolutions of up to 3,000 x 3,000 per eye while also delivering more detailed textures and higher frame rates.

For headsets that can switch between VR and AR, Qualcomm says the XR2 Gen 2 allows headsets to transition to full-color passthrough vision in less than 12ms. Other capabilities include support for devices with up to 10 cameras, improved wireless speeds (up to Wi-Fi 7) and 50 percent increased GPU power efficiency.

The Meta Quest 3 will be the first retail device featuring Qualcomm's new Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 chip.
The Meta Quest 3 will be the first retail device featuring Qualcomm's new Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 chip. (Qualcomm)

Alternatively, for more lightweight devices like smartglasses, Qualcomm's Snapdragon AR1 Gen 1 chip offers improved on-device AI processing, better noise and echo cancellation and dual ISPs for improved image quality. The new silicon can also support devices with up to 12-MP cameras (6-MP for video) and up to eight microphones with spatial sound for richer audio recording.

Notably, due to its collaboration with Meta, Qualcomm's latest XR and AR processors will be available first on the new Quest 3 and Ray-Ban Meta smartglasses, both of which go on sale in October. Qualcomm says "additional devices from other manufacturers to follow next year," which suggests that Meta will enjoy some level of limited exclusivity regarding the use of these new chips.

So while Meta may have a bit of a headstart compared to some of its rivals, it will be interesting to see what other OEMs can do with these chips when devices featuring them become more widely available in 2024.