All this talk of the metaverse with Facebook Connect now in the rearview mirror and Microsoft's early plans for an Xbox equivalent has looked to have gotten other big tech players involved.
Now, Qualcomm look to be the latest to weigh in with their vision for the future, and it's fair to say it looks pretty exciting.
What Is Snapdragon Spaces?
At their annual Augmented World Expo, Qualcomm has unveiled its Snapdragon Spaces XR Developer Platform which in short will allow developers to take current apps and develop them, alongside new ones that can work well with head-worn AR gear.
It's their entry into the world of augmented reality and its associated developments, which is one of the major platforms being touted as being key to future innovations.
The press release for Snapdragon Spaces comes in the wake of key developments in the world of VR, such as the announcement of Project Cambria a couple of weeks ago that has signalled a rise in the importance of other-worldly realities, most notably the concept of a 'metaverse.'
What Platforms Will Snapdragon Spaces Work With?
With the announcement, Qualcomm didn't specifically mention any new hardware that they've developed for Snapdragon Spaces to work with.
Instead, the platform is designed to take advantage of a multitude of partners who can develop their mixed-reality visions. When it comes to software, the likes of Niantic and their Lightship platform for the development of what they coin as 'real-world metaverse' apps will be key to realising Qualcomm's ideas.
For hardware, examples include manufacturers such as Lenovo, Motorola and Xiaomi for this, and the former's own ThinkReality A3 glasses will be the first device to take full advantage of Snapdragon Spaces.
When Will Snapdragon Spaces Be Released Publicly?
As the platform has just been announced, it's hardly surprising that there's not much information regarding a general rollout of Snapdragon Spaces to the public when it comes to a concrete date.
The only real information comes courtesy of Qualcomm's press release which states that "Snapdragon Spaces is in early access with select developers and is expected to be generally available in the Spring of 2022."
That Spring 2022 date gives developers a period of around six months from the announcement to a full public release.
Currently speaking, Lenovo is only offering their ThinkReality A3 glasses to enterprise users, and if all goes to plan, a public release with Snapdragon Spaces integration could be on the cards.
Other developers such as Xiaomi only announced their smart glasses in September, so it may be a while before we see these come to market, but that date of Spring 2022 provides some more time for development.
Analysis - Is Augmented Reality The Way Forward?
There is undeniably a major interest within concepts of virtual reality, mixed reality and most pertinently here, augmented reality at the moment, of which Qualcomm are the latest big-tech firm to throw their weight around.
Before this announcement came to Facebook with their rebranding as Meta, and the potential release of an Oculus Quest 3 headset, as well as the concurrent rebranding of the Oculus Quest 2 to the Meta Quest 2.
Even then, this idea of integrating augmented reality and mixed reality goes back as far as the original release for Google Glass, back in 2013.
That product, back then, was regarded as a commercial failure, but time and tech have certainly moved on since, and Google Glass has been re-engineered and is available for businesses to purchase today.
There is certainly merit in the principle of championing augmented and virtual reality, not just within a gaming space. The potential for a transformative experience with such exciting tech is massive, and if developers can harness its power properly, then the future looks bright.
However, as with any early sketch and sudden technological boom, there is a problem. The original issue Google Glass suffered was being too far ahead of its time when it was conceived as an idea, like the never-ending futuristic dreams of hoverboards and teleportation.
The same worry exists, from a personal perspective, for VR and AR tech. Whilst it is and should be possible for these headsets and glasses to flourish in their own respects as smart devices, suddenly transporting users to a conceptual 'metaverse' may just be a step too far at the moment.
AR is an arguably more convenient form of technology to harness and integrate into wider social spaces, especially thanks to the simple fact it can take the form of glasses as opposed to a large headset.
At the current rate of pace, VR is still a concept best applied in the gaming sphere, and consumers are probably best asking relevant questions, like whether you need a PC for the Oculus Quest 2, or whether the Quest 2 supports full-body tracking.
In short, as society isn't perhaps as acquainted with VR tech as it is with the concept of AR, utilising the tech to immediately build the metaverse when headsets are still pretty expensive and majorly used for gaming seems a little backwards.
The idea of a metaverse and integration with augmented, mixed, or virtual reality, is exciting, but its sustainability depends on the way the system is integrated into the individual pieces of hardware and more integrally, the wider context of society.
Qualcomm's Snapdragon Spaces look to be a step in the right direction, although, with most developments still in a conceptual phase, the future viability of the metaverse and AR-based tech is still yet to be tested.