China’s VR Shipments Declined 56% YoY in H1 2023 – Will Apple and Meta Revive it?

  • China’s Virtual Reality (VR) market declined by 56% year-over-year (YoY) in H1 2023, marking an end to the market’s two-year growth streak spanning 2020-2022.
  • Market leader Pico has chosen to strategically scale back its marketing investments since 2023 to ensure a healthier operation amid China’s tepid economic recovery, resulting in lower shipments target for its VR headsets.
  • Despite the bleak sales figure of the existing market, launch of Apple’s Vision Pro has ignited a wave of inspiration to drive the industry forward.

China’s VR market shipments declined significantly by 56% YoY in H1 2023, according to the latest data from Counterpoint’s China eXtended Reality (XR) research service. This marked the end of the Chinese VR market’s two-year growth streak, spanning 2020-2022, and reverting to a state of stagnation. The decline in China appears to be more severe than that observed in the global VR market, which fell 39% YoY in H1 2023. Consequently, China’s share of the global VR shipments in Q2 2023 accounted for only 10%, which is relatively low compared to its 20%-30% share in the global smartphone market.

Exhibit 1: China VR Market Shipments and YoY Growth, CY2018-H1 2023

Counterpoint Research
Source: Counterpoint China XR Tracker, Q2 2023

Note: VR headsets referred to here exclude smartphone boxes that rely on a smartphone to serve as the display panel.


The subdued market demand in China can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, the market’s growth over the past two years was largely driven by the extensive marketing efforts of China’s leading VR player, Pico. After it was acquired by internet giant ByteDance in September 2021, Pico significantly ramped up its product promotion to drive sales. However, since 2023, Pico has chosen to strategically scale back its marketing investments to ensure its operations are more stable amid China’s tepid economic recovery. Consequently, this decision has resulted in a lowered shipment target for Pico’s VR headsets. Secondly, despite Pico’s efforts to educate consumers on the enjoyable and entertaining experiences offered by VR headsets over the years, the absence of killer applications and a robust content ecosystem remains a significant challenge in China’s VR industry, hindering user adoption and retention. Additionally, during H1 2023, the absence of enticing new products in China dampened consumer demand. While the sales generated by new models such as Sony’s PSVR 2 and the Pico 4 Pro showed promise, they were insufficient to counteract the noticeable decline in the overall market.

In terms of the competitive landscape, China’s VR market has seen significant consolidation, with just a handful of dominant vendors. As market leader, Pico holds a substantial market share of roughly 50%. However, even Pico experienced an over 50% YoY decline during H1 2023. Sony captured a 19% share of the market thanks to a significant sales surge following the release of PSVR 2, which attracted Chinese PlayStation enthusiasts to purchase and explore the product. Nevertheless, it is expected that the momentum of the PSVR 2 will wane during H2 2023. DPVR continues to lead in China’s enterprise segment due to its competitive pricing, but it also faces a decline due to a slowdown in spending on digital transformation by Chinese enterprise customers. Apart from the top three players, there are limited providers competing in China’s VR segment, with iQiyi withdrawing from the market due to operational difficulties.

Exhibit 2: Market Share (%) of VR Headset OEMs in China and YoY Growth (%)

Counterpoint Research
Source: Counterpoint China XR Tracker, Q2 2023

Notably, Meta’s Quest VR is not yet officially available in the Chinese market, while Chinese smartphone OEMs such as OPPO, vivo and Xiaomi, despite their success in the global smartphone market, appear to be cautious when it comes to introducing a commercial VR headset.


Will Apple and Meta MR Headsets Revitalize Sales in China?

Despite the bleak sales figures of the existing market, the launch of Apple’s first MR headset, the Vision Pro, along with the accompanying “spatial computing” concept, has generated a significant buzz in the Chinese technology industry. Apple has set an industrial standard for what an ideal product can be, and we believe that the Apple Vision Pro (AVP), though not yet available in the market, has ignited a wave of inspiration to drive the industry forward.

  • Since the release of the AVP, China’s dedicated VR companies have actively delved into its technology specifications and ramped up their R&D endeavors. They are particularly focused on optimizing ultra-low-latency color video see-through technologies, optical solutions, and hand tracking algorithms, aiming to bridge the technological gap with Apple.
  • Chinese smartphone OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers), previously cautious with a “wait-and-see” approach to commercializing AR/VR headsets, are now re-evaluating their investments. Fearing the risk of lagging behind in the “spatial computing” era, strategic initiatives have been launched within these companies to reassess their projections regarding technology development trends and potential breakthroughs in the consumer XR segment. Additionally, we’ve noticed several OEMs bolstering their XR research teams to prepare for their first commercialized product, forging closer partnerships with industry players such as Qualcomm and Google.
  • Meanwhile, China’s internet giants, some of whom had scaled back investments or disbanded their “Metaverse”-related departments in early 2023, are now re-entering the arena. Tencent, for instance, is reported to have recently established the XR Device & Content Business Group within its Interactive Entertainment Group (IEG) to oversee the development, sales, and promotion of its forthcoming XR products. The company is also in discussions with Meta regarding a potential partnership to localize the Quest VR and integrate Meta’s content ecosystem in China.
  • Chinese Augmented Reality (AR) companies also have a more optimistic outlook for their future development, thanks to the emphasis on Mixed Reality (MR) features by the AVP. They strongly believe in the significance of the interaction between virtual objects and the real world, which may position AR as the ultimate future solution. In contrast to the challenges faced by China’s VR segment, Counterpoint’s China XR tracker indicates robust YoY growth in China’s AR glasses market during H1 2023. China is also a global leader in the development and commercialization of consumer AR glasses, despite the relatively small market base at present.
  • In the software domain, Shanghai is among the cities where the Developer Lab for the AVP is located, alongside Cupertino, London, Munich, Singapore, and Tokyo. Apple has commenced hosting Chinese developers since June, supporting them to create and run their applications on the VisionOS platform. We expect this to invigorate the Chinese application ecosystem for MR headsets, creating new opportunities for applications beyond just gaming.

Despite the positive impacts that the AVP has had on China, it remains to be seen how tangible of a sales boost it will provide to the market. The product is primarily aimed at developers rather than consumers, with a price tag of $3,500. Additionally, the user experience of the AVP, which relies on the combination of Apple’s proprietary M2 System on Chip (SoC) and R1 co-processor, presents a significant challenge for Chinese hardware players to catch up in the short term.

Meta’s newly launched Quest 3 headset, the first MR product to hit the consumer market based on Qualcomm’s XR 2 Gen 2 platform, has emerged as a more attainable benchmark for Chinese companies in the near term. Based on the hardware specifications disclosed by Meta, the Quest 3 has demonstrated substantial improvements in MR features, which are poised to open up new avenues and application scenarios for developers. However, it also seems that the Quest 3 has not fully tapped into the best capabilities of the XR 2 Gen 2 platform. Consequently, there may be opportunities for improvement that Chinese latecomers can explore. We expect these opportunities to catalyze the launch of new products by Chinese hardware OEMs in 2024/2025.

Furthermore, the advancements made by Meta with both the Quest 3 and its upcoming products, coupled with the competition presented by Apple, are likely to expedite the closing of a deal between Tencent and Meta within the Chinese market. This presents a noteworthy opportunity to enhance the sales and adoption of XR products in China.

We will closely monitor the market to observe how the competitive landscape will be reshaped with the entrance of these newcomers.


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OLEDoS: Technological Breakthrough for AR/VR Devices

With the time spent on console games, home entertainment and online education increasing against the backdrop of COVID-19, AR/VR devices are drawing more attention. Development of a killer consumer application is the key to the XR market’s growth. But prior to that, improvements are needed on the hardware side. Technical barriers and inconvenience in wearing AR/VR headsets remain. Therefore, R&D needs to be ramped up in this direction to minimize limitations in use.

Limits to AR/VR displays

AR/VR headsets should be good enough for an immersive experience. Also, they should be light in weight so that they can be worn for a long time. Further, AR/VR devices released so far may cause eye strains due to the low resolution of the displays. Also, low refresh rate delays screen updates, causing dizziness just by using it for a short time.

Technical requirements for AR/VR displays

  • Fine Pixel Size
  • High Refresh Rate
  • High Resolution

 AR/VR display must first be made to a very fine pixel size for accurate color and image reproduction. Also, a high refresh rate is important for AR/VR displays. Smartphones must have a high refresh rate of at least 120Hz to reduce motion blur on video, but even the most recent AR/VR devices, like the Oculus Quest 2, have a 72Hz refresh rate, which is far short and must be at least 120Hz. Resolution is also important. The average resolution of OLED smartphones is 550 ppi but AR/VR devices require about 3,500 ppi because they feature near-eye displays.


OLEDoS: Solution for ultra-high resolution

Counterpoint Research OLEDoS Layer
Source: LG Display Blog

OLEDoS (OLED on Silicon) is a display panel that typically has a diagonal length of less than 1 inch and meets the 3000 ppi-4000 ppi resolution criteria of AR/VR device displays. Existing OLED displays use Low-Temperature-Poly-Silicon (LTPS) or Oxide TFT based on glass substrates. But OLEDoS uses silicon-wafer-based CMOS substrates. Using silicon substrates, ultra-fine circuit structures typically used in semiconductor processes can be reproduced, which in turn lead to the creation of ultra-high-resolution OLEDs when organic matter is deposited on them.


Specifications of OLED and OLEDoS

Counterpoint Research OLEDoS Specifications
Source: Sony / Korea Science

OLEDoS is also called Micro OLED in the market and features high efficiency, high luminance, infinite contrast, fast response and long LED life compared to OLED. Because the size is smaller than 1 inch, the user does not see the panel directly but sees the enlarged image through the optical lens. When used on AR/VR equipment, it shows high resolution in a small, lightweight wearable device.

Apple is also likely to install OLEDoS in its second-generation AR/VR product which is expected to enter the market around 2025. In addition, it is expected that augmented reality that meets the above technical conditions will be implemented as Meta is likely to install OLEDoS in its Meta Quest 3 device, expected to be released in 2023.


OLEDoS expected to achieve 28% share in 2025

Currently, OLEDoS faces high market entry barriers. This is because the technology is yet to ripen fully. The cost of production of the semiconductor substrate remains high even as the related value chain is yet to be completely formed. However, with Apple and Meta expected to introduce OLEDoS-based AR/VR equipment in the next two to three years, many manufacturers would actively adopt OLEDoS. More production will result in a lower per-unit cost, prompting more demand and increasing the share of OLEDoS to nearly one-third of the market by 2025.


Next big supplier of AR/VR displays

It is expected that two OLEDoS displays will be installed inside Apple’s first headset, and Sony will be the first supplier this time. LG Display is expected to supply general OLEDs that are applied to the external indicators. In the long run, however, Apple is expected to choose LG Display as a supplier of OLEDoS over Sony. Although Sony’s technology is somewhat ahead now, the company has its own gaming console, making it a potential competitor to Apple in the XR market, where having a killer application is the key. Once Apple enters the XR market, it is expected to grow at a rapid pace while Samsung Display is expected to catch up with arch-rival LG at a rapid pace. Once again, we will be able to see the fierce race between SDC and LGD in the XR market.


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Leveraging AI-driven RAN Intelligence to Maximise Network Potential

The RAN is a critical part of a cellular network as it manages a CSP’s most important asset: its spectrum. Yet despite investing billions of dollars in spectrum, CSPs have historically had little control over their spectrum portfolio using existing RAN controller technologies. This is now changing with the introduction of new AI-driven RAN Intelligence solutions.

Network Challenges

With the introduction of 5G, mobile networks are becoming more complex. Although there are efforts underway to sunset 2G and 3G networks, many CSPs will need to operate multiple base station types across 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G for many years. In addition, they will need to accommodate an ever-widening range of spectrum bands – perhaps up to 20 bands – ranging from sub-1GHz low-bands and 3.5GHz mid-bands to very high 26-40GHz millimetre bands, with even higher 66GHz bands and above expected to be used in future.

In future, CSPs will also need to face the challenges of accommodating multiple network architectures, ranging from the traditional distributed architecture to new disaggregated RAN and edge architectures. At the same time, they will be offering an ever-increasing range of services – voice, video, AR/VR, IoT, WBB, LTE-V and FWA – each with its own specific set of technical requirements, while simultaneously dealing with continuously varying RF parameters, different levels of signal attenuation, channel interference, etc.

Traditional O&M

Traditional routine RAN network optimization typically involves the use of in-house experts who handle all network alarms and faults. This is a labour-intensive process as all data gathering and analyses is done manually and requires a large Operations and Management (O&M) team. In addition, most CSPs only have limited resources at their disposal and hence only the “top N” problematic cells in an entire network are usually selected for optimization. As a result, it may take several weeks, or sometimes months, to adjust network parameters to support new applications. Network management this way is an expensive but unavoidable opex cost for CSPs.

Leveraging AI-driven RAN Intelligence

Traditional O&M is no longer an option for CSPs striving to provide integrated control across a portfolio of multi-standard, multi-band 2G to 5G networks. Instead, CSPs must turn to new AI-based RAN intelligence solutions, which in future will play an essential role in helping CSPs to manage complex, integrated networks, thereby increasing network performance.

Improving RAN performance involves leveraging AI to update and optimize the RAN’s control parameters across time, frequency and space domains. This requires a deep understanding of the nature and the role of the different parameter categories affecting network performance, as well as an understanding of the complexity of each individual category and the potential for improvement. Typically, RAN algorithms are adapted to new network scenarios and conditions by optimizing the network hyperparameters.[1] This brings the performance of a particular part of the network – such as a specific group or cluster of cells – into a steady state thus improving specific key performance indicators or KPIs. Examples of RAN algorithms include self-organizing algorithms and L1/L2 and L3 algorithms.

 Huawei’s RAN Intelligence Portfolio

To promote the use of intelligent networks, Huawei has developed a portfolio of RAN Intelligence solutions, which includes the following two solutions:

  • SingleBAND – enables site-level, multi-band convergence through on-site intelligence. This solution enables flexible full-band decoupling, which through FDD enhanced uplink extends TDD band coverage while also improving network capacity through full-band and multi-beam 3D coordination.
  • Capacity Turbo – a network-level solution that takes the multi-band convergence concept beyond a single site. Capacity Turbo improves optimization efficiency and frees experts from repetitive tasks to focus on more advanced tasks. In addition, Capacity Turbo has the ability to accommodate existing expert experiences at a CSP and learning from those experiences in an interactive way. This enables Capacity Turbo to become even smarter.

Huawei Capacity Turbo

Huawei’s Capacity Turbo is a flexible solution that integrates with existing network and site AI algorithms (Exhibit 1). Rather than handling network alarms and faults, Capacity Turbo focuses on optimizing network performance. This involves the simultaneous optimization of multiple parameters, a feat impossible with traditional O&M. The solution operates across all spectrum bands and mobile networks from 2G to 5G.

Capacity Turbo enables automatic, smart network-level optimization using intelligent algorithms which perform coordinated optimization between multiple bands and multiple sites. This improves network performance, enhances user experiences while minimizing routine network optimization costs. By using iterative parameter optimization, combined with expert experiences, Capacity Turbo can enable closed-loop, data-driven on-line network optimization.

Compared to traditional O&M, Capacity Turbo can optimize many more parameters (20+ versus 3-5 in traditional O&M) as well as offer automated scenario matching across the whole network rather than just in a single cluster. In addition, this optimization process can be done in less than two weeks compared to a month or more with traditional O&M.  RAN intelligence solutions thus provide automated solutions to complex network problems that cannot be resolved by on-site personnel – in effect making the impossible possible!

Exhibit 1:  Huawei Capacity Turbo

Commercial Deployments

Capacity Turbo is already in commercial service with many CSPs around the world. Examples include:

  • China – using multi-parameter optimization-based AI, a leading CSP in China achieved an 18% improvement in downlink throughput ratio using Capacity Turbo in a trial in Guangzhou run across a 1755 cell, 580 base station network. Capacity Turbo also enabled the same CSP to achieve an 81% improvement in downlink packet loss and a 22% improvement in uplink packet loss across the same network. In another example, the CSP used Capacity Turbo to optimise VoLTE performance and achieved an 81% reduction in packet loss while reducing uplink packet loss by around 22%.
  • Thailand – the Capacity Turbo solution has been successfully used by a major CSP in Thailand to improve 4G coverage. In regions with weak coverage, high interference and limited capacity, Capacity Turbo was able to improve coverage as well as increase base station throughput by between 13% to 15%
  • Southern Spain – using an AI-enabled personalized parameter policy, a CSP in Spain experienced a 15% improvement in average user downlink throughput across an optimized 766 cell portion of its network while using Turbo Capacity.
  • Brazil – one of Brazil’s leading CSPs increased user experience by 18% across a 70 base station site region using Capacity Turbo.


In future, RAN intelligence solutions such as Capacity Turbo will play a critical role in managing complex multi-band, multi-RAT mobile networks and AI-driven network optimization will enable CSPs to maximise network potential while lowering total cost of operations. In addition, better RAN intelligence will drive the development of new, innovative 5G use cases, thereby providing CSPs with opportunities to differentiate their networks compared to rivals.

[1] hyperparameter – a parameter used in machine learning to control the learning process

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Podcast: XR – Where are We in Reality?

When first introduced, eXtended reality (XR) appeared like a futuristic concept. But after years of research and development, the technology is now accessible to consumers and enterprises. Yet, XR is having a hard time transitioning from a fantasy concept to something that is more practical and generates revenue. But the recent launch of the Oculus Quest 2 does make us feel a little optimistic about the technology. It is built on Qualcomm’s XR2 platform, which offers new levels of power to the standalone virtual reality (VR) headset.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world around us. People are working from home, and students learning from home. With more time being spent at home, activities like gaming are becoming popular. While standalone gaming can be one of the key drivers for the XR platform, XR being all about offering users with an immersive experience, learning too can be fun with it. Virtual and augmented reality (AR) can help explain scientific topics like the universe in an exciting way. Further, it can even benefit the manufacturing and healthcare sectors among many other possibilities.

In the latest episode of ‘The Counterpoint Podcast’, host Peter Richardson is joined by Research Analysts Karn Chauhan and Harmeet Singhwalia to share their perspectives on eXtended reality. They discuss the current developments in the XR industry, limitations and future expectations, besides going into questions like how will XR benefit from 5G, and will the rumored Apple glasses be the inflection point that the XR industry needs for mass adoption. All this and more in the podcast below.

Hit the play button to listen to the podcast

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Oculus to Bring Lifelike Immersion to Mass Market

  • With the launch of Quest 2, Facebook continues the shift in its VR focus to the standalone type of headset design, combining the Oculus Link technology for consistent PC VR gaming experiences.
  • Oculus Quest platform alone had generated over $150 million in content revenue.
  • With a starting price of $299, Quest 2 is expected to outpace its predecessor and contribute millions of sales.

On September 16, Facebook launched the second generation of Oculus Quest. The new standalone VR headset is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 platform, which is dedicated to creating ultimate VR experiences. It makes a significant leap in computing performance across CPU, GPU and AI capabilities. Compared to its predecessor, the Oculus Quest 2 comes with a Fast-Switch LCD Display, supporting up to 90Hz display refresh rate and 50% more pixels, a redesigned 6-DoF touch controller, and a 256GB onboard storage option.

Exhibit 1: Quest Specification Comparison

Despite the performance upgrades, Facebook has managed to bring the hardware price down. With the standard edition being introduced at $299, the Oculus Quest 2 is expected to quickly gain traction. Since the launch of its first standalone design, or Oculus Go, back in May 2018, Facebook has been focused on building a strong user base for Oculus by introducing affordable VR headsets. The Quest family, thanks to its competitive pricing, the comfort of wearing, and ease of playing, has become the major driving force behind the user growth and now is at the center of the Facebook VR ecosystem.

Exhibit 2: Oculus Sales Estimates During Each Initial Rollout Period

Oculus Sales Estimates During Each Initial Rollout Period


During the first year after its launch, the Oculus Quest saw its sales far ahead of Oculus Go. Meanwhile, Oculus ecosystem developers were able to rake in over $100 million. With the worldwide lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer spending on Oculus Quest content increased significantly. The revenue in Q3 2020 alone is expected to reach $50 million, greatly inspiring content creation around the Quest platform.

Facebook plans to stop producing the Oculus Rift S in 2021, it is focusing on development of standalone type of VR headsets just like the Quest 2, which will leverage Oculus Link for consistent PC VR gaming experiences. With more production capacity shifting to the Quest 2 in 2021, it will outpace the previous Oculus gadgets and set a new high during October 2020~October 2021.

Augmented Reality: It's Tough in Reality

BOSE is the latest company to withdraw from pursuing ambitions in the augmented reality sector. Other casualties include ODG and Daqri (acquired by Snap). Earlier, Atheer, a pioneer in augmented reality (AR), gave up ambitions to sell headsets, retrenching instead to offer software platforms that enable enterprise application development on other companies’ hardware.

A few years ago, I chatted with a former Atheer CEO. He said the overriding challenge in hardware was the optics. We at Counterpoint believe this continues to be one of the most difficult aspects of developing AR glasses and one that no one seems to have managed to crack yet. Magic Leap is the ‘poster child’ for the difficulty in making AR work. It was determined to develop its own, unique waveguide, but ended up consuming billions of dollars and almost going bust.

Unsurprisingly, the BOSE solution was based on audio rather than visual augmentation. Though a novel approach, it didn’t garner enough interest to make it commercially viable. And after key personnel left and the downturn caused by COVID-19 hit home, BOSE is withdrawing from the initiative. The concept was reasonable – using audio to enhance something someone is already doing. For example, navigating through a city or working out in the gym. But these can be accomplished just as well using regular hearables paired with a smartphone or smartwatch.

BOSE’s departure leaves very few players continuing to push ahead in consumer-orientated AR wearable devices. The one with the highest expectations is Apple. It is expected to announce something soon, but precisely when remains unclear. Tim Cook has spoken of the potential of AR many times, and some sort of eyewear has been in development for several years. But we suspect it’s the pesky optics that will be causing Apple the most headaches. The current most likely timeline points to an announcement in 2021 with the product becoming available the following year. The most likely format will be for the glasses to work in concert with an iPhone – the phone delivering computational power and potentially electrical power as well. The glasses will effectively act as an additional screen and house various sensors to enable surface detection, hand tracking and possibly object recognition, although this is computationally intensive. ARKit, which has been available for several years, will be the basis for application development for the glasses.

Chinese company Nreal, which was founded by people who left Magic Leap, is ahead of Apple but following a similar path, though in its case it is confining itself to the Android smartphone environment. Nreal glasses plug into compatible Android phones for power and computational resources.  This simple approach – using the glasses as a second screen for an existing device – is relatively modest in scope, but is the lowest-risk way forward. Nreal supports Unity and Unreal Engine for application development and is looking at both consumer and enterprise options.

Consumer AR remains challenging and we struggle to conceive of truly compelling applications that will overcome consumers’ reticence about wearing glasses – an extremely image altering addition. But in the enterprise, AR is already proving its worth. Applications supporting diverse sectors like field force, construction and healthcare are already benefiting from AR devices – companies such as Vuzix have been performing well here.

Microsoft continues to gently push ahead with Hololens. But the devices are not without challenge to use given their size, weight and somewhat delicate nature that is incompatible with construction sites, for example. This means many of the most widely deployed AR use cases continue to be through screen – that is holding up a tablet or smartphone to see the enhanced view via the device’s camera and mediating software.

AR and VR are often cited as technologies that will be revolutionized by 5G. We can support this idea conceptually, but the near term reality is much less exciting and continues to be a hard, slow slog for the remaining players in the game. The AR revolution is inching closer, but it may still be a few years before it’s a commercial reality.

XR2 5G platform- Extended reality’s pivotal moment

Qualcomm launched the world’s first 5G XR platform during the annual Snapdragon tech summit, XR2. This is in addition to the XR1 platform which now has more than 30 devices in the market. The XR series are dedicated chips for eXtended Reality (XR) devices. These have had moderate success so far, mostly due to the limitations of the XR market, but true immersive experiences need a solid connectivity platform.

The ecosystem is expanding and over the past two years, we have seen devices launched by different partners with use cases across both consumer and enterprise segments. The chart from Qualcomm’s presentation highlights participants in the overall XR ecosystem.

XR Ecosystem

Source: Qualcomm Snapdragon Tech Summit 2019

With a faster tech transition from 4G to 5G on the horizon, the XR2 5G platform is a good move by Qualcomm to enable next-generation features and immersive experiences that demand ultra-low latency with great audio and visual level customizations. In such a scenario the XR2 5G platform brings significant performance improvements over the XR1. These performance improvements include 2X the CPU and GPU performance, 4X more video bandwidth, 6X higher resolution and 11X AI improvements. Additionally, the Snapdragon XR2 platform is also the world’s first to support seven concurrent cameras and a dedicated computer vision processor. This opens up the possibilities of different use cases, especially in the enterprise segment. The XR2 supports high graphics rendering, support for 8K 360 degree videos at 60fps and a custom silicon built to reduce latencies for immersive visual experiences. In audio, XR2 offers voice activation and context detection for certain use cases.

XR2 Platform

Source: Qualcomm Snapdragon Tech Summit 2019

Qualcomm said that it will maintain first generation XR platform, for now. We expect that Qualcomm will opt for a tiered approach, with XR1 targeting basic use cases within the entry to mid-tier products and XR2 5G powering premium devices.

We expect the first wave of XR2 devices will be in the enterprise segment. Manufacturing, industrial and gaming will lead when it comes to applications where 5G’s role will be critical in providing real immersive experiences. However, this category of devices will demand a strong push initially from ecosystem partners as its value lies in the experience. This holds true both for enterprise and consumer segments. Developers, hardware vendors, and operators will be watching this space closely. Niantic’s partnership with Qualcomm during the event for AR glasses is an indication that many partners are ready to adopt a platform powered by 5G that opens up a whole new set of possibilities.

POST EVENT COVERAGE: DAY 3 SNAPDRAGON TECH SUMMIT :: XR2 5G platform and always connected PC (ACPC)

Qualcomm made a lot of noise in the always-on-always connected (ACPC )PC space at the Snapdragon Summit Day 3 . The key selling points remain the same: LTE or 5G, multi-day battery life, Windows 10 support, enterprise-grade security, and AI accelerating the experiences.

New to space is Qualcomm now has three platforms which will help OEMs better differentiate their hardware and also hit a much larger range of price tiers.

The 7c compute platform is the entry of the three unveiled. It is built on the 8nm manufacturing process. The 7c should hit impressive price points as low as $300 and has the goal of the computing power of entry PCs. This is substantial price erosion and should be much more interesting for students or those on a tight budget than first-generation ACPCs.

In past years, gaming was not even mentioned. With the power and software improvements, light gaming is now supported. 4k HDR video capture @30 frames per second are also supported in the entry offer. The platform’s cellular connectivity supports Cat13 up to 150Mbps.

The 8c compute platform is built on 7nm process technology. Relative to the 7c, GPU and CPU are more powerful yet battery life is not negatively affected; 6+ trillion operations per second (TOPs) are supported. The chip is testing 30% faster than last year’s platform. Cellular connectivity supports Cat20 LTE, 256-QAM, 4x4MIMO, carrier aggregation (aka Gigabit LTE). The platform supports two 4k displays at 4k ultra HD. Qualcomm QuickCharge is also a feature. Prices of hardware with the 8c compute platform inside should be in the $500-$800 range.

The 8cx compute platform is the premium of AOAC PCs. It also has a Snapdragon X55 modem—meaning 5G is supported.8cx is the premium platform and hardware using the 8cx are expected to have a point-of-sale cost of $1000 and more. GPU and CPU performance is advertised as 60% more power-efficient than the Snapdragon 850.5G FDD, TDD, SA, NSAs, sub6, and mmWave is all supported. Or, as Qualcomm describes it, ‘real 5G’.

The sector should see growth with the new, lower price tiers. Look for more OEMs to be supporting AOAC PCs in 2020

Always connected PC

Qualcomm also launched the world’s first 5G XR platform during the annual Snapdragon tech summit, XR2. This is in addition to the XR1 platform which now has more than 30 devices in the market. The XR series are dedicated chips for eXtended Reality (XR) devices. These have had moderate success so far, mostly due to the limitations of the XR market, but true immersive experiences need a solid connectivity platform.

XR2 5G platform brings significant performance improvements over the XR1. These performance improvements include 2X the CPU and GPU performance, 4X more video bandwidth, 6X higher resolution and 11X AI improvements. Additionally, the Snapdragon XR2 platform is also the world’s first to support seven concurrent cameras and a dedicated computer vision processor. This opens up the possibilities of different use cases, especially in the enterprise segment. The XR2 supports high graphics rendering, support for 8K 360 degree videos at 60fps and a custom silicon built to reduce latencies for immersive visual experiences. In audio, XR2 offers voice activation and context detection for certain use cases

Overall Qualcomm, during the 2019 Snapdragon summit managed to unveil some powerful platforms. With 5G all set to penetrate faster in 2020, Qualcomm will be betting big on 865 and 765 platforms. Additionally, XR2 5G along with 7C, 8C, and 8CX opens up new opportunities in coming years

Mobile XR : The Future of Extended Reality (AR/VR/MR)

The next generation of connectivity (5G, WiFi 6, 802.11ay) is poised to enhance the way we interact with the current crop of devices. Extended Reality – XR (VR/AR/MR) is one such technology that will benefit from the introduction of 5G and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The present generation of XR devices requires either a smartphone or a powerful PC to deliver some level of immersive experiences. This experience sometimes is limited as the smartphone alone is not powerful enough to deliver a truly immersive experience and connecting with a PC requires it to be tethered with a wire, sometimes creating a barrier for the immersive experience. Though we are seeing standalone XR devices beginning to proliferate but most of these devices are bulky, power hungry as most of the processing is concentrated or centralized. The standalone “Mobile XR” has tremendous potential not only to interact or consumer immersive content but also to create. However, there needs to be some technical breakthroughs which can drive sleek, ultra-lightweight XR devices form-factor which can offer powerful XR experiences more efficiently.

New Technologies: 5G & AI

At the 4G/5G Summit 2018, Qualcomm showcased a concept XR technology that it has dubbed “Boundless XR”, a photorealistic Mobile XR over 5G. A 5G capable XR device with a powerful processor and augmented by edge cloud computing.

Exhibit: XR Device with 5G connectivity and augmented edge cloud infrastructure.

Source: Qualcomm
  • A powerful processor will enable the XR device to have on-board processing capabilities, eliminate the need for it to be tethered to a PC.
  • Connectivity over 5G will provide a reliable and low latency link to the cloud infrastructure delivering high-quality content to the device.
  • A third significant feature in the XR ecosystem will be the deployment of edge cloud for faster computing. The edge cloud also improves the overall network efficiency and improves the availability of content to users as and when they need it.
  • High-speed connectivity and processing power together will be able to deliver the XR experience with better and immersive content, further overcoming the limitation of the present XR devices.
  • Further, on-device + cloud-based AI can drive the fluidity of the overall XR experience with better optimization of sensors, image stabilization, object detection, semantic segmentation and so forth

New Techniques: Split Rendering

Exhibit: Split Rendering - Distributed XR Workloads Processing for More Efficient Form-Factors .

Source: Qualcomm 4G/5G Summit

This creates an opportunity for new players to enter the XR ecosystem, especially the network operators that missed out on the cable TV revolution. For starters, the content will be delivered over the 5G network and will require a reliable connection from a network provider. In addition, network operators can monetize their investment in 5G by providing the edge cloud infrastructure that will host content. It will also allow the device to have better rendering by splitting complex computation between the servers and the XR device itself. Faster and robust connectivity will further content providers like NextVR delivering live entertainment and online gaming companies to engage the user with-in the ecosystem.

Silicon and system level, players such as Qualcomm are working on specific technologies like Split Rendering, 5G and on-device AI which should remove a number of barriers for XR devices to take off. However, this technology is still in its nascent stage and will only mature once there is a robust 5G infrastructure in place.

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