Setback for Meta: Chip development not going as planned
Meta’s next data glasses will rely on a Qualcomm chip and not on its own chip design as originally planned.
That’s according to The Information, citing two sources close to the company. The team developing the chip for the next Ray-Ban Stories was told in late 2021 that the company would use a Qualcomm chip. Metas AR chief Alex Himel said he chose the Qualcomm alternative because the company’s own chip threatened to delay the launch of the new data glasses. This is planned for 2023.
The Meta chip, codenamed Brasilia, would have enabled 3D audio and higher-resolution photos and videos. Audio playback and camera are the two main functions of the data glasses. There is no display built in.
Special chips are essential for AR glasses
Developing its own chips is part of a broader effort aimed at controlling key technologies and reducing dependence on Qualcomm, the report says.
Meta uses Qualcomm chips in all of its major hardware products: the Meta Quest 2, Portal-branded video chat devices and the first-generation Ray-Ban Stories. According to a report from 2019, Samsung manufactures Meta’s special chip. At that time, it was said that mass production would start in 2021.
With its own custom chip, Meta could further optimize its technology, which is essential for advanced augmented reality. Since AR glasses pack as much technology as possible into the smallest possible space, there is little wiggle room when it comes to factors such as computing power, energy efficiency and heat.
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The competition knows this: Apple will rely on a chip developed in-house, as will Google, which describes its Tensor chip, used in the latest Pixel, as the basis for “groundbreaking AR”. Microsoft, on the other hand, is likely to work with Qualcomm for the time being.
The third meta setback in a row
The decision to rely on Qualcomm is a setback for Meta’s chip team, which has been led by former Google chip designer Shahriar Rabii since 2018.
However, the general chip development will not be stopped, it is too important for that. The previous design work will flow into other future chips. The report mentions a chip called “Carson” as an example, which is to be used in Meta’s smartwatch.
It’s the third setback in quick succession for Meta: in February, Meta lost a key AR executive, and earlier this year, the company abandoned the development of its XR operating system. From a technical point of view, the latter is at least as important as a dedicated AR chip. The XR OS could become the key with which Meta breaks out of the ecosystems of Apple and Google. But even in this case, the work continues, albeit in a modified form, Meta announced.