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Qualcomm launches virtual reality dev kit for Snapdragon mobile chips

Samsung Gear VR is limited by its smartphone guts.

The mobile-chip giant wants to stoke demand for the already red-hot VR business by making it easy for developers to create games and apps that run on Snapdragon-based hardware. The company’s Snapdragon 820 chip can be used in VR hardware that runs a variety of apps. VR and augmented reality are expected to be a $120 billion business by 2020, according to tech advisor Digi-Capital. All this means that future VR devices will be much more graphically impressive than current hardware, and the software for it will be easier for developers to create.

The kit provides developers with access to advanced VR features, allowing them to simplify development and attain significantly improved VR performance and power efficiency with Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processors for Android smartphones and upcoming headsets. The kit will be available free for developers in the second quarter of 2016 through the Qualcomm Developer Network.

The SDK can help developers determine how to spread a processing workload across a bunch of processing cores in an efficient way. The cores have to keep up with the motion sensors and rendering tasks, or the person could get sick.

The Snapdragon VR SDK will have features like digital signal processing sensor fusion, allowing it to combine data from gyroscopes and accelerometers via the Snapdragon Sensor Core. It enables faster transformation of rendered images in 3D, stereoscopic rendering with lens correction, and layering of menus and other interfaces in the virtual world. It also enables better power management.

“We’re providing advanced tools and technologies to help developers significantly improve the visual user experience of next-generation virtual reality applications like games, 360 degree VR videos, and a variety of interactive education and entertainment applications,” said Dave Durnil, senior director of engineering at Qualcomm, in a statement. “VR will be a new paradigm for how we interact with the world, and we’re excited to help mobile VR developers more efficiently deliver compelling and high-quality experiences on upcoming Snapdragon 820 VR-capable Android smartphones and headsets.”

Overall graphics effects and lighting will be much better. Qualcomm will show Qualcomm-generated demos at the Game Developers Conference this week on Samsung hardware.

“It’s an order of magnitude difference,” said Tim Leland, vice president of product management for visual processing at Qualcomm in an interview with GamesBeat. “We can’t show what we are doing with partners yet, but it will show where we are going.”