Moving one step beyond Samsung's Gear VR, Intel just announced Project Alloy, an all-in-one VR headset that doesn't need to be connected to a phone or computer. Yes, that means it's completely wireless, with its own processor and battery. Alloy can also track rooms on its own, and it tracks your fingers for interacting with virtual objects. There's also a camera that lets you see other objects in the room, as well as nearby people. It's part of Intel's push around "merged reality," which combines VR and augmented reality into a single cohesive experience.
It's the same idea as Microsoft's "mixed reality" with HoloLens. And, not surprisingly, Microsoft's Windows Holographic platform will play a key role with Alloy hardware. Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft's Windows devices group, revealed at Intel's Developer Forum that the Holographic platform will be available to all Windows 10 PCs next year. On top of that, Intel will make its Alloy hardware specifications and APIs open source next year.
"Anyone can take Alloy hardware, combine it with Windows Holographic, and build a world-class VR system," Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said on stage at the IDF keynote today.
In a brief demo, an Intel rep wearing a Project Alloy headset was able to wander around the stage, while at the same time navigating a virtual room. When he was prompted to open a door in VR, he merely reached his hand out (which showed up in his virtual view) to flick a switch. It took a few moments for the headset to recognize his hands, but the fact the device saw it at all was impressive. When he approached Krzanich, his boss's face appeared in VR, allowing him to avoid a potentially embarrassing (and career ending) "merged reality" tumble on stage.
We still don't know what the Project Alloy hardware consists of, or what it will eventually cost. But it's an important step for the future of VR and AR. As great as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are, they're both severely limited by all of the wires required to connect them to PCs. We already have a glimpse at wireless virtual reality with the Gear VR, but it looks like Intel is going to push things even further with Alloy.
Nicole Lee contributed to this report.