Mixed-reality system will place user’s hands, arms and real-world objects into a virtual world without the need for a series of external sensors
Intel has unveiled its next evolution of virtual-reality goggles Project Alloy for so-called mixed reality, which drags real-world objects into the virtual realm using 3D cameras.
The new head-mounted display consists of a set of goggles that resemble the likes of Facebook’s Oculus Rift or HTC’s Vive VR headsets, but they do not need to be connected by a series of cables to a computer. Instead, they contain the computing power needed to run the headset in the headset.
The headset uses Intel’s RealSense cameras, which have depth-sensing capabilities, to allow, without the need for additional sensors, objects such as the user’s hands to be tracked and entered into the virtual world displayed within the goggles. Most other VR headsets, including Sony’s upcoming PSVR, require a series of cameras, sensors and accessories to be placed about a room or held in the hand to enable similar functions.
Intel’s chief executive, Brian Krzanich, said: “Merged reality delivers virtual-world experiences more dynamically and naturally than ever before – and makes experiences impossible in the real world now possible.
“Pick up your real-world tennis racket in your living room and step virtually on to the court at Wimbledon. Be the ultimate concert master – fully unplugged. Plan your virtual visit to the Sistine Chapel while never leaving the office. Experience a sporting event, a concert or a film scene from any point of view – and from any position.”
Intel is keen to place itself at the heart of the next stage of VR technology, having missed out on the mobile space now dominated by designs developed by rival ARM. The US chip giant recently pulled out of the smartphone chip market, unable to gain traction after starting late and failing to meet the power efficiency and capability of ARM designs made by Samsung, Qualcomm, Apple and others used in billions of mobile devices world wide. It also announced a deal to manufacturer ARM designs in its plants.
While Facebook’s Oculus, HTC and Google, with its Cardboard smartphone-powered VR system, have a head start, Intel hopes its work with companies Daqri, its RealSense 3D cameras and processor technology will become essential to the next generation of VR and AR systems currently in development.
Intel has backing from Microsoft, which announced it will support Project Alloy with its Windows Holographic system. The software is in development with Microsoft’s own AR solution, Hololens.
VR and AR systems, yet to go mainstream, are held back by capability, cost and the social stigma displayed towards devices such as Google’s Glass smartglasses. This year should see more affordable yet capable systems, including Sony’s PSVR and Google’s Daydream, enter the market, attracting users put off by the high price of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which both require a plethora of sensors and a very powerful Windows PC to power them.
But given the failure of technology with similar burdens of having to wear glasses or apparatus, such as 3D TV, whether VR and AR systems will become a mass-market item remains to be seen.