At the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, the company revealed a product which they believe will lead the way towards widespread consumer adoption of Virtual Reality. Intel isn’t calling their new tech “Virtual Reality” though, they call it “Merged Reality”.
The headset they revealed will not be up for sale anytime soon. It is a reference device which Intel will make available to other companies so that they can build on top of it. The device eliminates wires and external sensors and packs all the necessary components in the headset itself. This untethered setup gives Alloy the freedom to navigate virtual worlds unlike any other headset and reduces the risk of injury from tripping over wires or obstacles.
The headset is equipped with Intel’s “RealSense” depth sensing cameras. These cameras are key to the Merged Reality experience because they detect the user’s own hands and other surrounding objects. Detection of the hands as well as the ability to distinguish the fingers is what makes Alloy so special as it does not require any controllers. The system is thus immersive in the sense that it allows the user to interact with virtual elements with nothing but their hands.
The hands and other obstacles show up on the screen of the device so the user gets a real life view of, suppose a friend standing nearby, in the virtual world. The demos showing how the interactions work were rather rough around the edges. Upon first impression it seems that activating a virtual switch or opening a door can prove to be difficult unless very specific gestures are created.
The technology is still in its infancy but Intel has Microsoft’s backup on Project Alloy. Microsoft has announced that their Windows Holographic platform will come to all Windows 10 PCs next year and will allow essentially any VR/AR/MR headset to make use of 3D and 2D apps designed for Windows.
The quality of these MR products may not be able to rival that of the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift but that’s the whole point. Project Alloy is aimed at making alternate realities accessible to people and easy to use. It’s supposed to be the next step away from Google Cardboard or Samsung’s Gear VR. All that is left now is for manufacturers to polish the hardware along with a strong software base for things to kick off.