‘s Snapdragon 845 VR kit needs software to make it shine

When Qualcomm announced its new Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR platform earlier this year, it threw around terms like “6 DoF SLAM” and “foveated rendering” as highlights. While it’s easy to understand the benefits of these tracking and graphics improvements in theory, seeing them in practice is what could get you excited about upcoming headsets. At its booth in MWC 2018, the chip maker had a demo on its reference design headset to showcase some of the changes, which we checked out briefly.

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Frankly the demo was quite limited. I didn’t get to check out foveated rendering, as it wasn’t live yet, and it’s not like I can tell if the battery life is indeed longer from my five to 10-minute trial. Still, I was able to experience the benefits of SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping), which tracks your body with reference to the room you’re in.

This not only helps the system better integrate obstacles into the virtual environment, but also provides a more grounded experience when exploring the simulated world. But the obstruction avoidance system hasn’t been implemented yet, so I can’t evaluate how effective or smooth it is. What I can say, is that I felt noticeably less nauseated chasing and shooting extra terrestrial bugs in a spaceship’s hangar on the reference design headset than some other goggles I’ve tried. The entire experience was smooth, and the headset was lightweight and comfortable enough for me to duck and hide from swooping vermin.

I couldn’t tell if the resolution was noticeably improved from Snapdragon 835 headsets, since few of them are actually available yet, but the visuals during my experience were fluid and sharp. My mortal enemies (bugs) and little robot helpers ran around the scene without frames stuttering, and they had smooth borders. I also used the companion touch controller to shoot down the flying creatures, and didn’t notice any lag.

It would have been nice to see how well the foveated rendering can keep up with my frantic gaze as I hunted down a flurry of winged creatures, but unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a bit longer to check out that demo. Qualcomm suggested that there might be more to share come Games Developers Conference in mid-March, so stay tuned to see what happens then. For now, the Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR reference headset is a sweet, if limited, preview of what upcoming standalone VR goggles can do.