Qualcomm announces the Snapdragon VR Software Development Kit


With VR headsets such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift receiving a fair amount of positive publicity in recent months, Qualcomm’s announcement that it plans to release a software development kit (SDK) for virtual reality devices makes perfect sense. After all, 2016 may well be the year that VR finally comes good. Maybe. The new Snapdragon VR SDK is said to optimize the VR experience when used with chips such as the Snapdragon 820, as used in the LG G5, Galaxy S7, and the Mi 5.

The Snapdragon VR SDK offers a variety of tools that developers can use to optimize the VR experience for users, including DSP Sensor Fusion, fast motion to photon (nothing to do with Star Trek, I promise), stereoscopic rendering with lens correction, VR layering, and finally, the all-important power management. Combined, the tools will enable developers to create bigger, slicker, more immersive interactive experiences, as well as simplifying the process.

The Snapdragon VR SDK is expected to be released in the second quarter of 2016, which isn’t too long to wait. Besides the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and the Gear VR, it’s been reported that both Google and Amazon are both developing their own respective VR devices, so the VR scene is set to get a little crowded in the coming months.

Press Release:

SAN FRANCISCO, March 14, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM) today announced that its subsidiary, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., has introduced a new virtual reality (VR) software development kit (SDK). The next generation of mobile virtual reality applications is complex, with extreme power consumption constraints and challenging performance requirements that must be met in order for the VR applications to become truly immersive. Advanced heterogeneous processors like the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 820 processor are capable of supporting immersive VR experiences, but can also be difficult to fully utilize without the right set of tools for developers. The new Snapdragon VR SDK is designed to abstract the complexity of immersive virtual reality and provide developers with access to optimized, advanced VR features, to simplify development and to help them attain improved VR performance and power efficiency with the Snapdragon 820 for Android smartphones and upcoming VR headsets. The SDK is expected to be available in the second quarter of 2016 through the Qualcomm Developer Network.  

For the first time, many new technologies that are crucial for an optimal VR user experience will be supported in the Snapdragon VR SDK. These include:

  • DSP sensor fusion: Utilizing the full breadth of technologies built into Snapdragon 820, the SDK enables developers to create more responsive and immersive experiences by easily accessing the right combination of high frequency inertial data from gyroscopes and accelerometers via the Snapdragon Sensor Core and predictive head position processing with the Qualcomm® Hexagon™ DSP
  • Fast motion to photon: Supports asynchronous time warp with single buffer rendering for fast transformation of rendered images in 3D space, which helps reduce latency by up to 50% compared with not using the SDK
  • Stereoscopic rendering with lens correction: Supports 3D binocular vision with color correction and barrel distortion for improved visual quality of graphics and video, enhancing the overall VR experience
  • VR layering: Generation of menus, text, and other overlays so that they render correctly in a virtual world, reducing distortions that would otherwise make them difficult to read
  • Power management: Integration with the Qualcomm® Symphony System Manager SDK to provide cohesive CPU, GPU, and DSP power and performance management to help achieve stable frame rates for VR applications running in low-power, thermally-constrained devices – improving power efficiency compared to not using the SDK

“We’re providing advanced tools and technologies to help developers significantly improve the virtual reality experience for applications like games, 360 degree VR videos and a variety of interactive education and entertainment applications,” saidDave Durnil, senior director, engineering, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “VR represents a new paradigm for how we interact with the world, and we’re excited to help mobile VR developers more efficiently deliver compelling and high-quality experiences on upcoming Snapdragon 820 VR-capable Android smartphones and headsets.” 

About the Author: Peter Holden

He's been an Android fan ever since owning an HTC Hero, with the Dell Streak being his first phablet. He currently carries a Pixel 2 XL, Huawei P20 Pro, and a Galaxy Tab S2 8.0 around in his pockets. When not immersed in the world of Android and gadgets, he's an avid sports fan, and like all South Africans, he loves a good Braai (BBQ).