How do you make the HTC Vive, arguably the best virtual reality headset on the market, even better? By adding a depth-sensing camera. According to our sister site, Tom's Hardware, Intel maybe working on such an accessory as we speak.
A picture of the nascent device briefly appeared on Twitter, courtesy of Dimitri Diakopoukus, a product scientist and prototyping engineer working at Intel’s Perceptual Computing Lab. Besides making the Vive look like a high-tech rhino, what the device does exactly is a mystery.
What we do know is that the device has six cameras, each weighing in at 10 grams. And according to Diakopoukus, the horn doesn't disrupt the headset's weight distribution, retaining its comfort.
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Since this is an Intel project, it's a very good bet that some of those cameras are going to utilize the company's RealSense technology. If that's the case, there could be some potential for room mapping.
In fact, if the depth sensing worked well enough, there might no longer be a need for the Vive's Lighthouse system. That's the technology that bounces infrared light from the pair of mounted base stations off of the Vive headset and controllers to determine positioning. Lighthouse requires a lot of space to work effectively, and it would be great if Intel found a way to cut down on that requirement.
Intel's device could also do some form of augmented reality, so the Vive could go head-to-head with Microsoft's Hololens. Vive wearers could use the built-in camera to see the real world while the accessory beams interactive holograms out into the room.
Fortunately, we don't have much longer to speculate, since the prototype will be officially revealed at Intel's annual Developer Forum, which takes place August 16-18. With this and the impending launch of the Viveport app store, it seems that HTC is taking off the kid gloves in the VR wars.