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article imageIntel now has its own 'mixed reality' headset

By James Walker     Aug 17, 2016 in Technology
Intel has surprised many by announcing its own virtual reality headset that offers some compelling features not found in the competition. The headset uses an all-in-one wireless design and operates independently of a PC, allowing you to move freely in VR.
The device was unveiled by Intel CEO Brian Krzanich during the opening keynote of the 2016 Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco yesterday. Intel said it has been built "from the ground up" to offer a glimpse into the future of merged reality. Alloy is an all-in-one VR platform that includes elements of augmented reality, overlaying nearby objects from the real word onto its computer-generated imagery.
Alloy's key capability is its wireless nature. Unlike rivals such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, you don't need to connect the headset to a powerful computer using an unwieldy cable. Instead, all the computing power required to power Alloy is stored inside the headset itself. This lets you "cut the VR cord" and experience virtual reality without being tethered to your PC, affording a free range of motion across a much larger area than Alloy's rivals.
To ensure you don't bump into things in the real world while in a virtual space, Intel has added collision detection and avoidance technology. This overlays images of nearby objects onto the headset's display as you approach them, keeping you aware of your surroundings. The result is a headset that allows you to experience the full 6 degrees-of-motion in a wireless virtual environment.
Intel s Project Alloy mixed reality headset
Intel's Project Alloy mixed reality headset
Intel Corporation
Alloy has another advantage over its competitors. Existing room-sized virtual reality experiences, such as the HTC Vive, require external sensor towers be set up in the room to detect where you are at any given time. Alloy does away with this, instead working out for itself where it is positioned. This is made possible by a set of Intel RealSense cameras mounted on the headset.
Intel's RealSense technology is a depth-sensing system that uses a combination of three cameras to image physical objects in 3D. The same system powers the collision avoidance mechanisms. RealSense scans the space ahead of it for obstructions. If an object is detected, it can be scanned and inserted into the real world as a 3D object.
Intel s Project Alloy mixed reality headset
Intel's Project Alloy mixed reality headset
Intel Corporation
In another unique capability, Alloy is able to detect its wearer's hand movements directly. Other headsets are operated using handheld motion controllers, restricting the player and making them feel more tied into VR. Alloy uses its RealSense cameras to monitor your finger movements, displaying them in the VR landscape and allowing you to interact with virtual objects with nothing more than your hands.
In a blog post on Medium, Krzanich described Alloy as the "best of all worlds." He explained how he sees merged reality as a way to deliver virtual experiences more "dynamically and naturally" than ever before, combining augmented and virtual reality tech in a way few other companies have done so far.
"With increased mobility, integrated tracking and highly sensing human motion capabilities, merged reality will profoundly impact the way we work, how we are entertained and how we communicate," Krzanich said. "We’re rapidly moving toward a world where the boundary between the digital and the physical is eroding, and merging in new exciting ways."
Intel Project Alloy mixed reality headset
Intel Project Alloy mixed reality headset
Intel Corporation
Alloy may be innovative but Intel is far from the only company working in the field. Coming somewhat late to the game, it's already behind the established Oculus Rift and HTC Vive desktop headsets. Mobile offerings such as Samsung's Gear VR are also proving popular. With rival ecosystems springing up from a multitude of companies, there may not be an opportunity for Intel's latecomer platform to gain wide adoption.
Intel's still a long way off launching Alloy. It is currently targeting the second half of 2017. When the headset arrives, it won't be carrying Intel's own name. Instead, it will publish the hardware specifications required to build the device and allow other companies to create their own versions based on it. No pricing information is currently available.
More about Intel, mixed reality, Virtual reality, augmented reality, headsets
 
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