Qualcomm is betting it can become a cornerstone in the augmented reality world. The chipmaker has unveiled a Snapdragon Spaces platform that helps developers create apps for "next generation" AR glasses. The toolset includes tech to help understand environments and users (including gesture and hand tracking from the newly acquired HINS), software kits for 3D engines like Unreal, OpenXR support and hooks for platforms like Niantic's Lightship and Unity's AR Foundation.
The ultimate aim is to make AR more accessible. Ideally, developers will make apps directly available to you through mobile app stores, using glasses tethered to smartphones. You might not see Snapdragon Spaces used for stand-alone glasses, at least not at first.
The manufacturer support will be there. Spaces won't be widely available until spring 2022, but Qualcomm has lined up partners like Lenovo (including Motorola), Oppo and Xiaomi. Carriers like T-Mobile and NTT DoCoMo will help build "5G experiences" using Spaces. Lenovo will be the first to make use of the technology, pairing its ThinkReality A3 glasses with an unnamed Motorola phone.
It's too soon to know if Snapdragon Spaces will have a meaningful effect on AR. While this should streamline app work, that will only matter if there are both compelling projects and AR glasses people want to buy. This also won't be much help for iPhone owners waiting on possible Apple AR devices. Efforts like this might lower some of the barriers, though, and it's easy to see a flurry of AR software in the near future.