Spatial computing is reshaping the world of work
As 2023 comes to a close, it’s only natural that we look back at the new things that have emerged in the networking industry over the past 12 months and assess the impact they’ve had and the impact they can have over the coming year. To draw a baseline, almost everyone agrees that this is truly the era of 5G, AI and virtual/augmented reality, and that companies are starting to see the emergence of significant and meaningful applications based on these platforms. Chief among them has been the emergence of spatial computing, a phenomenon that has been around in theory for a while, but is now making its mark in transforming the world of work.
Immersive technologies are rapidly moving from the gaming and entertainment arenas into the industrial, manufacturing, education and enterprise sectors, and are poised to innovate new models for each sector, addressing new realities for enterprises. These emerging technologies are being used to great effect at the intersection of computer vision, artificial intelligence, deep learning, cutting-edge computer graphics, high-throughput, ultra-low-latency 5G networks, and the cloud.
Using them all can create a new and intelligent perception of the world through augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and virtual reality (VR) devices. This means hardware processing, display technology, computer performance, network performance, perception technology, content, contextual AI, battery and charging and connectivity technologies in general.
The world of spatial computing is therefore a very complex one and has created its own ecosystem to address core functional elements. It is also the result of about three to four years of development by leading technology companies.
Moving to spatial computing
For Jerome Jacquemin, senior director of product marketing at Qualcomm France, the journey to spatial computing comes from a much longer road. In fact, it suggests that we have arrived on a journey from the two-dimensional images that people have used to communicate with each other over the past tens and hundreds of years.
“So now we’re moving to spatial computing, and suddenly the world around you becomes your desktop and the world you’re going to interact with,” he says.
“You need to provide users with important applications that really matter to them. This will happen thanks to artificial intelligence and the interaction between on-device computing and cloud computing. This is where 5G plays a very important role. It is very high throughput, very low latency, real-time service, with the best experience For the user between devices and the cloud.
Qualcomm believes that in order to create effective immersive headsets and devices, a number of perception technologies must be addressed. From a user understanding perspective, this includes tracking technologies that include hand controllers, support for six degrees of freedom for head movements, as well as eye tracking and even facial expressions. This creates an environmental understanding that supports spatial mapping and intertwines with scene awareness and object/image recognition.
Jerome Jacquemin, Qualcomm France
The technology also needs to support 3D location detection as well as local fixation points and image stabilization. With all of these capabilities in play, there should be improved processing covering head-mounted split-view and low-latency video vision.
In October 2023, Qualcomm announced the fruits of its technology partnership with Meta in the form of two new spatial computing platforms – Snapdragon
The Snapdragon A premium camera, on-device AI and what the tech company calls “blazing fast” connectivity. The platform is said to be designed to democratize premium MR and VR technology in a single-chip architecture to unlock gaming, productivity, and entertainment experiences in thinner, more comfortable headsets that don’t require an external battery pack.
It delivers richer visuals with improved clarity, textures and colors at more frames per second than previous versions, and is also optimized for up to 3K resolution per eye to deliver better pixel quality and high-resolution visuals. The platform also aims to allow users to blend virtual content with their physical surroundings to transition between VR and mixed reality experiences. It provides full-color video pass-through capabilities at speeds up to 12 ms to improve optical resolution and digital convenience in MRI experiments.
Qualcomm considers Video Transparent Latency (VST) a key differentiator. She says traditional systems are built on a combination of elements that include camera, lens correction, frame waiting, rendering, render waiting, warping, and rendering, resulting in latencies of more than 50 milliseconds. In contrast, their solution is based on an array containing only a camera, a single step, and rendering elements that results in a latency of 12 ms.
In what will almost certainly be a massive boost to the processors’ commercial prospects, both platforms will debut on Meta hardware before the end of 2023. Specifically, Meta Quest3 will be powered by the Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 platform and Ray Ban Stories, powered by the Snapdragon AR1.
“At Meta, we are focused on developing future technologies in mixed reality and smart glasses, as well as fundamental innovations that will advance our vision of augmented reality glasses one day,” says Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, CTO at Meta. Officer and Head of Reality Labs for the social media giant.
“We are identifying next-generation technologies that deliver massive breakthroughs in power, performance, and AI. Building this future computing platform requires an industry-leading partner, and that’s where our long-standing collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies is critical. The latest Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 platforms are “The Snapdragon AR1, which powers Meta Quest 3 and next-generation Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses, is another testament to the power of this partnership, and we’re excited for users around the world to experience it.”
This is a very important point – spatial computing is about ecosystems and partnerships. And while the partners and brands may not be much bigger than Meta on the technology side and Ray-Ban on the eyewear side, Qualcomm revealed in September that it is working with a number of leading European tech companies to support spatial computing in a variety of ways. Use cases, particularly gaming, education, engineering, and Industry 4.0.
French company Lynx Mixed Reality was founded two years ago and is working with Qualcomm to develop the Lynx-R1 headset. The company has a team of 15 people with diverse backgrounds ranging from designers to electronics engineers and from Unity experts to low-level systems engineers, and the company’s stated mission is based on its belief that “Virtual reality as a medium is the best storyteller, and augmented reality is the best way to tell stories.” . “Basically a superpower.”
With Lynx, the company believes it is pioneering standalone mixed reality, and that the AR/VR ecosystem deserves a versatile and open device, at a “very affordable” price to enable professionals and industries around the world to transform the way they work. Work, training and learning.
When the product launches in 2023, Lynx Mixed Reality CEO Stan Larocque said the company has been working with Qualcomm for three years to create what he believes is the first high-end consumer electronics device of its kind to come from a European company.
“It’s like the Apple Vision Pro, but much less expensive, but it kind of does the same things,” he said during a demo of the product’s capabilities. In addition to a detailed look at a very complex 3D computer-aided design model of a space engine, looking at how engineers essentially break it down into parts and sub-assemblies, the company also showed off medical applications with realistic 3D views of skeletal and muscular systems.
A world of learning
In education, technology company Avantis Systems has worked over the past three years with Qualcomm to develop ClassVR, as part of its mission to inspire a world of learning where “the impossible becomes possible.” Conceptualized in 2014 and launched in January 2017, ClassVR aims to improve student outcomes by increasing classroom engagement and improving knowledge retention through experiential learning. The setup includes virtual reality headsets, a headset management portal, and curriculum-aligned content to add value to lessons no matter the subject. The result of this combination is said to give students the ability to “foster curiosity, ignite imagination, and foster engagement.”
German company Holo-Light describes itself as an expert in AR/VR and live streaming technologies, and was founded in 2015 and has more than 80 people working from offices in Austria and the US as well as its home territories. Focused on industry transformation, the company specializes in immersive software and technology for the enterprise market and looks to pave the way for increased XR adoption and scalability with its XR Streaming platform that aims to change the way companies design and develop products.
In addition to being a Qualcomm partner, the company has a client list that includes major companies such as Northrop Grumman, P&G, BMW, and Mercedes Benz. Its technologies are used in a number of situations including product development, design reviews, stakeholder engagement, board design, assembly training, and remote support.
Arthur Technologies aims to solve hybrid working for enterprises with a mixed reality office solution that delivers what the company calls purposeful presence and collaborative productivity, enabling companies to embrace hybrid working without what the company calls its downsides. The technology is being deployed in use cases including special events, learning and development, customer and team meetings as well as in what is called the world of agile projects and meetings. At the heart of the solution is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Spaces XR developer platform, which Arthur says allows the company to reach its goals faster in spatial meetings, local spatial anchors, and hand tracking.
Although it lags just as far behind its developers as the companies mentioned above, Qualcomm has stressed that it is essential for all players to thrive in the immersive space to create a tide that will lift all virtual boats. Jacquemin pointed to the importance of Apple with its Vision Pro AR/VR product. “We want them to be successful, and it is important for them to be successful,” he reveals. “(It will be) very important for the market ecosystem and will attract a lot of developers to invest in it.”
The brave new world of spatial computing will be a complex one indeed, with many moving parts and entirely dependent on a number of companies collaborating with each other in different parts of a complex and diverse ecosystem. The shape of things to come in many industries is expected to become clearer.