Four years ago, a group of former Qualcomm CEOs, including former CEO Paul Jacobs, launched XCOM Labs to push the boundaries of wireless technology performance.
This week, XCOM will be showcasing its initial product – an unrestricted, augmented virtual reality system that promises to deliver cinematic-quality images to dozens of headphones in a room simultaneously, without transmission delays that can cause motion sickness.
“We’re talking about giving a guaranteed hundreds of megabytes per second to each user in a very dense environment, so we focused on a 30 x 30 space,” Jacobs said. “Then the number of users. We are building a system that will do like 64 users.”
Potential applications include training, product design, location-based entertainment, and telemedicine, among others.
“We focus on private networks,” Jacobs said. “You go to an organization that has a job to do, and it provides you with the overall ability to get that done.”
At the augmented global expo in the Gulf region, XCOM’s virtual reality show will place users in an empty space. As they move their hands, the landscape becomes lush, as if they are causing the world around them to grow. Due to space limitations, the demo only includes two people at a time.
The augmented reality demonstration is located in an area of 1,400 square feet with a variety of content on headphones equipped with XCOM Labs radios that connect to their wireless access points.
Jacobs joined former Qualcomm President Derek Aberle and former CTO Matt Grob in founding XCOM. Jacobs said the company has raised $70 million so far and employs about 80 workers. TDK Ventures announced an investment in XCOM last week, though it did not disclose the amount.
In AR/VR, headsets attached to powerful gaming PCs tend to deliver the best performance, with low latency and realistic renderings.
But the industry is cutting the rope, in part because the ability to move around opens the door to more applications and use cases beyond gaming.
With wireless headphones, processing is still done on nearby computers. It is then streamed from the computer to the headset over the air.
“A lot of them are using Wi-Fi 6,” said Anshel Sag, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy who covers the industry. “Oculus already offers this, as do Pico and HTC, where you can stream from your PC. You have the full power of your GPU from your gaming PC or enterprise workstation, and you can stream it to a headset and get high-end VR and AR experiences.” Precision. “
However, even Wi-Fi 6 – the latest generation of Wi-Fi – can have latency issues, which can lead to strained images. And performance tends to slow down as more users migrate to the network.
“Things have improved so much in the past few years that a lot of people are saying they are good enough,” said Sage. “But I would say that having a dedicated high-bandwidth signal would probably reduce the response time even more.”
This is what XCOM aims to do. It uses what is known as Wi-Gig technology. Radios and their access points can deliver up to 400Mbps to multiple headphones using unlicensed 60GHz airwaves.
While 60 GHz serves a massive capacity, it is also prone to interference and blockages. In AR/VR, Sag said, losing a signal is worse than having an imperfect latency.
According to Jacobs, XCOM has implemented cellular technologies to mitigate some of the interference problems with unlicensed 60-GHz airwaves. The XCOM system is expected to be commercially available later this year or early next year.
“We take the wire away, and we don’t add too much latency to pull the wire away,” Jacobs said. “It really is a different experience too, when you can just walk around. You are much more immersed.”