In a keynote address to thousands of AR cognoscenti and developers at the recent Augmented World Expo (AWE), Qualcomm VP Hugo Swart, GM of XR, took a deep dive into how the company’s two-year-old Snapdragon Spaces SDK (software developer kit) enables users to deploy applications against multiple devices. Every time Swart mentioned Spaces there were cheers from the audience.
Qualcomm chips power most XR devices in the industry, from the work-a-day assisted reality apps that display work instructions to the popular Meta Quest 2 VR headset. But success depends on a robust software ecosystem. “The developer is the star of the show,” he said of AWE. “We want them to have easy access to all the features of the XR2 chip. The easier it is to develop these devices, the faster the ecosystem can develop.”
Qualcomm Technologies’ Snapdragon Spaces SDK (Software Development Kit) launched in 2021, along with Lenovo’s ThinkReality A3 hardware. It plugs into Unity and Unreal Engine developer platforms, adding spatial mapping and meshing, occlusion, plane detection, object and image recognition and tracking, local anchors and persistence, scene understanding, and includes positional tracking and hand tracking, all in one interface.
“For XR to scale, a robust and open ecosystem is key,” said Vishal Shah, VP and GM of Lenovo’s XR and Metaverse business. “With the Lenovo ThinkReality A3 hardware and our great partnership and integration with Qualcomm Spaces, we were able to unlock rich features on a device with a very low power profile. Developers can easily port their applications due to the open XR Android compatibility. This reduces the friction for developers to have their applications on more diverse sets of devices.”
Rock Paper Reality is a three year old agency founded by former ODG and Deloitte executives that provide strategic consulting and award-winning content for companies like Adobe, Qualcomm and Epic Games. “We’ve been doing headworn AR and VR stuff for the last 15 years,” CTO Preston Platt told me. As the company is focused on immersive computing, they are a Spaces power user.
“At first, all these different headsets makers were trying to do their own thing, and none of them were doing it very well,” Platt explained. “After Qualcomm introduced Snapdragon Spaces, tasks that took days are now automatic. Developers can deploy one build across all Snapdragon devices. It’s a simple, very simple, standardized drag and drop system.”
“Qualcomm is doing what’s necessary to enable the ecosystem of all its partners to grow rather than having a fragmented industry with a bunch of walled gardens. They are also very focused on open standards, using OpenXR, and offering Snapdragon Spaces as an open alternative to Apple,” said Anshel Sag, Principal Analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy in an interview.
Talespin, a company that makes corporate training simulations, has recently started using Spaces with Lenovo’s VR device. In an interview, CEO Kyle Jackson, said his company started using Spaces with Unity at the beginning of the year. “They helped us ease into OpenXR running on Meta and a prototype device with minimal effort,” Jackson explained. “By simply switching between the runtimes in the XR plug-in management we are able to debug issues on Meta Quest and this helped tremendously because the prototype device we were targeting did not have good debugging options. This sped up debugging on the prototype tremendously.”
“We’re about to experience a huge influx of content, applications, devices, and increased usage in the XR industry,” said Swart, speaking of the upcoming Meta 3 and Qualcomm’s recently announced partnership with Samsung and Google. “More than ever, developers are in the driver’s seat leading, disrupting, and creating the next big thing.”
Charlie Fink is the author of the AR-enabled books “Metaverse,” (2017) and “Convergence” (2019). In the early 90s, Fink was EVP & COO of VR pioneer Virtual World Entertainment. He teaches at Chapman University in Orange, CA.