Smartphones already have a wide-ranging roster of features and abilities, from summoning food and transportation with the push of a button to connecting us with loved ones sitting half a world away. Judging by all the hype surrounding the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Magic Leap and by the words of Facebook founding father Mark Zuckerberg at the recent Mobile World Congress ‘smartphone extravaganza’ in Barcelona, the next realm for the smartphone to master is the world of virtual reality.
According to Wired magazine, virtual reality is driving the next generation of mobile technology, bringing about a new design focus that will change everything about smartphones, from the chip to the chassis.
Qualcomm, which builds processors for many high-end smartphones, believes it can pack all the processing power required for VR into phone chips. "It just became apparent,” said Tim Leland, VP of product management, "that a headset was going to be a better way of getting information into people’s visual cortex than having to rely on just tap-tap-tap.”
VR will allow people to "share and experience whole scenes as if you’re just there,” Zuckerberg told enthusiastic crowds at the MWC.
Unfortunately for the eager however, while VR is touted as the next frontier for smartphone technology, it is also still far away from reaching the average consumer. Virtual reality-capable devices require powerful graphics processing, intensely high resolution displays, 3D spatial audio, supremely accurate motion tracking, and battery power beyond anything close to current market capabilities.
Qualcomm’s new flagship smartphone processor does move the industry one step closer by retaining a few of these desirables; it is found within the HTC 10, Samsung Galaxy S7, LG G5, and other top-of-the-line devices. Google engineers are also reportedly "hip-deep” in VR technology being developed for the Android operating system.