Intel's Project Alloy headset joins the mixed reality race / by TI

It's RealSense's time to shine

Intel has finally laid its mixed reality cards out by unveiling Project Alloy, a prototype connected headset at the Intel Developer Forum.

With features that resemble an Oculus Rift crossed with a Microsoft HoloLens, Alloy won't be made by Intel. Instead, the chip maker wants to power 'merged reality' headsets by other tech companies.

Essentially it's a completely wireless VR headset with some additional mixed reality features such as real world object recognition and offering the ability to see your own hands and fingers while in VR. Like the Vive, it will warn the wearer if they are about to walk into a wall or a couch too.

Read this: IFA 2016 - what to expect in wearable tech and VR

Specs are scarce but the tech involved is centred around Intel's own depth-sensing, room-scanning RealSense cameras, which we saw on the Daqri AR Smart helmet back at CES. And the hand tracking doesn't need any external HTC Vive-style sensors placed around the room, the headset includes motion sensors. 

We said it's completely wireless and, in another deviation from what we've seen so far, Project Alloy won't be tethered to a PC or any controllers, it's powered by a sixth gen Intel Core processor. It's a self-contained VR machine.

Brian Krzanich, Intel's CEO, wrote in a Medium post: "Merged reality is about more natural ways of interacting with and manipulating virtual environments — by liberating you from the controllers and the nun chucks of today's VR systems by immersing your hands — your real-life hands — into your simulated experiences thanks to readily available new sensing technologies."

There's some interesting ideas here though perhaps not enough to seriously worry Microsoft, Magic Leap and HTC - which is looking into mixed reality for the Vive - too much. Indeed, Intel is a little late.

If you're intrigued by this particular merging of real and virtual realities, you'll be waiting a while. Project Alloy will appear in the form of an open hardware platform next year so the first devices might not be ready until late 2017 or 2018.