I slipped on a VR headset and the living room melted away. First the table, then the bookshelf and finally the couch disappeared. In their places, bunkers, generators and industrial structures popped up. That's when the alien robots started coming.
At CES 2017 in Las Vegas. I tried out Intel's Project Alloy, which merges your real world with virtual reality to make any room into a videogame play space.
The first-generation Project Alloy prototype is completely untethered from a computer. Instead, it's an entire PC on your face in a VR headset, which makes for a completely wireless experience.. It includes a battery, an Intel Skylake CPU, integrated graphics and, most importantly, four Intel RealSense cameras. Two of those cameras are for for depth, and the others are fisheye lenses.
The developer headset was extremely simple to put on. I slipped on a headband and the lenses pulled straight over my eyes. That's when the living room fell into the floor and I ended up with a gun in my hand. The controller features just a trigger and a touchpad, and I used it to fire lasers at the robots.
During my 15 minutes with the headset, I did encounter a few issues. Notably, the two Intel representatives had to repeatedly warn me about bumping into a coffee table in the middle of the room and from running into walls while I collected ammo packs. It seems that while the developer kit mapped the room well, it didn't completely maintain it throughout the play session. Towards the end of my demo, I noticed that the picture got a bit fuzzy, which knocked me out of my immersed state.
Despite those hiccups, trying out Project Alloy was the most fun I've had all week at CES. I ducked behind the table, slid past the couch and took on seven waves of invaders coming from all directions. My small apartment doesn't have room for a traditional walk-around VR setup like the one the HTC Vive offers, but Project Alloy gives me hope that I can be ducking and weaving around my own personal war zone or fantasy land soon enough.
The headset I used was the basis for a developer prototype that will go out to creators in Q2 of this year. An Intel representative says that the tech will be in its partners' headsets by the end of the year.