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Qualcomm Inc. will supply custom chips for Meta Platforms Inc.’s Quest series of virtual reality headsets, the companies announced today.

The companies described the partnership as a “multiyear broad strategic agreement”. Qualcomm chip designers will create custom processors for Meta in collaboration with the social media giant’s engineering and product teams. The processors will reportedly run the Presence Platform, a set of software components developed by Meta to ease the development of mixed reality applications. 

The companies didn’t provide technical details about the upcoming processors. However, they disclosed that the chips are set to be “powered by Snapdragon XR platforms and technology.” Snapdragon XR is a series of mixed reality chips developed by Qualcomm.

Meta uses the newest processor in the Snapdragon XR series, the XR2 5G, to power its flagship Oculus Quest 2 VR headset. The XR2 5G is a system-on-chip, or a chip that includes multiple types of computing modules. It features a central processing unit, a graphics processing unit and a modem that enables VR headsets to connect to 5G networks.

The XR2 5G also includes more specialized components. According to Qualcomm, the chip features a computing module known as the Engine for Visual Analytics that is specifically designed to speed up VR applications. Additionally, the XR2 5G includes optimizations that enable it to run artificial intelligence applications 11 times faster than Qualcomm’s previous-generation mixed reality chip.

The custom chips that Qualcomm will supply for Meta’s Quest headsets may also feature AI optimizations. Meta ships its Quest headset series with a software platform known as the Presence Platform, which provides tools that enable developers to more easily build VR applications. The Presence Platform includes several AI components, which means that a chip with AI-optimized circuits could help speed up the software.

Meta reportedly plans to introduce four new VR headsets by 2024. The headsets reportedly include two high-end devices optimized for productivity devices, as well as two more entry-level products that will be available at a lower price point. The latter two products are expected to become available as part of the Quest headset series, which means they may feature Qualcomm’s custom chips. 

Meta’s investments in VR hardware are an important part of its broader metaverse development efforts. The metaverse is envisioned as a future version of the internet that would include more augmented reality and virtual reality elements. Last year, Meta spent more than $10 billion on metaverse-related initiatives.

“We’re working with Qualcomm Technologies on customized virtual reality chipsets — powered by Snapdragon XR platforms and technology — for our future roadmap of Quest products,” said Meta Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg. “As we continue to build more advanced capabilities and experiences for virtual and augmented reality, it has become more important to build specialized technologies to power our future VR headsets and other devices.”

Qualcomm has reportedly indicated that the chips it develops for Meta could become available to other VR headset makers as well. Qualcomm already supplies chips to several VR hardware manufacturers and also has a presence in the adjacent augmented reality market. Earlier this year, it inked a partnership with Microsoft Corp. to develop custom chips for AR glasses.

Photo: Qualcomm

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