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Mobile VR gaming in 2017: Qualcomm will make mobile virtual reality a serious rival to the HTC Vive

Mobile VR games and headsets are set to explode in 2017, in a good way (rather than a Galaxy Note 7 way) and Qualcomm and its Snapdragon 835 chipset are going to be major players. Here’s what you need to know about VR gaming on your smartphone in 2017 and why it’s about to get a whole lot better.

VR gaming on your mobile phone is fast becoming a popular pastime, with many manufacturers such as Samsung, LG and Google already offering their own mobile VR headsets. Just slip your iPhone or Android device inside and it acts like a virtual reality display, allowing you to dive inside a thrilling space sim or watch a VR movie, or even enjoy a spot of VR telly with the likes of Sky VR.

Of course this tech is still in its infancy, but Samsung’s Gear VR and Google Daydream VR are already showing us what’s possible. And at MWC 2017, Qualcomm launched some cool new programs and products that will push the boundaries of VR gaming and experiences on our humble smartphones.

Read next: How to enjoy VR on your phone

Snapdragon 835: Made with mobile VR in mind

At the tail end of 2016, Qualcomm launched its latest Snapdragon 835 mobile chipset. This beefy microchip doesn’t just offer a more powerful processor than previous Snapdragons, as well as peak download speeds of 1.2Gbps. You also get some impressive support for mobile VR games and apps.

Read next: Snapdragon 835 vs 821 vs 820, what’s the difference?

Tim Leland, Qualcomm’s vice president of product management, said: “The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 was designed to combine six degrees of positional tracking, high VR frame rates, immersive audio and enhanced 3D graphics with real-time rendering in a compact, stand-alone headset for the ultimate VR experience.”

The Snapdragon 835 chipset provides the whip-fast performance needed to render real-time VR environments, so you’re truly immersed in the experience. But it also allows for impressively precise hand mapping, to the point that you can see your own virtual fingers wiggling in front of you. And with low latency promised, you shouldn’t have to wait for your virtual mitts to catch up.

That’s going to be essential for any VR games which require you to pick up make-believe objects and otherwise interact with your surroundings, rather than simply spectating. This super-smart mapping was made possible thanks to Qualcomm’s positional tracking tech, combined with Leap Motion Inc’s hand tracking software.

Bearing in mind that mobile VR offers a tether-free experience, it’s exciting to see what’s already on the horizon. Soon these VR games on our smartphones could even rival those on the HTC Vive in terms of immersion, while beating it for freedom of movement.

Snapdragon 835 also means loads more mobile VR games in 2017

Qualcomm hasn’t just provided the hardware needed for a truly stunning mobile VR experience in 2017, however. It’s also recognised that the greatest hardware in the world is about as much use as a soggy cat without any good software.

That’s why Qualcomm also recently launched the new Snapdragon VR Development Kit. Any developers keen to produce virtual reality games for Android will get early access to a VR headset packing the Snapdragon 835 chipset, as well as an upgraded VR software development kit (SDK). That’ll help them to write and test their game, before releasing to the public.

Cristiano Amon, executive vice president at Qualcomm, said: “We see great potential for the exciting new experiences made possible by truly mobile, untethered virtual reality that’s always connected to the internet, and we’re excited to help mobile VR developers more efficiently deliver compelling and high-quality experiences on upcoming Snapdragon 835 VR-capable products.”

Expect some better VR headsets for your mobile phone too

As well as giving a leg up to developers of mobile VR games, Qualcomm is hoping to help out mobile VR headset manufacturers with its recently launched Head Mounted Display Accelerator Program. This program’s objective is to cut engineering costs and help manufacturers to ship their headsets in a more timely fashion, so we the consumer can get gaming with the latest hardware even sooner.

Qualcomm reckons that VR headsets could move from concept to retail product in just a few months using the new program. To make this possible, any manufacturers will have access to reference designs, proven components and of course the Snapdragon 835 chipset.

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