SAN FRANCISCO — In a video kicking off at the Intel Developer Forum today (August 16), a sensual voice asked, "What if virtual reality felt less virtual and more real?" It's an interesting question. In its current form, virtual reality has the ability to transport you to different places, but it doesn't feel particularly real — especially if you're holding a pair of clunky controllers in your hands. However, Intel wants to change that with its new merged reality concept delivered via Project Alloy.
Available in the latter part of 2017, when Intel says it will release hardware and software APis to developers, Project Alloy is Intel's new VR headset that looks a bit like PlayStation VR and Samsung Gear VR had a baby. But unlike the PSVR (or even the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive), Alloy is tether-free, housing a processor, sensors and a pair of RealSense cameras in the system for a completely self-contained system.
That means instead of using a gamepad or touch controllers, you can navigate a virtual space by simply walking around. Even better, the cameras and sensor can track your hands in the environment, so your freed-up hands can interact with objects. Instead of being confined to a single room, Project Alloy allows you to move from room-to-room in what Intel is labeling multi-room tracking.
Still unimpressed? In addition to tracking your hands, you can also grab something from the real world and incorporate it into the virtual one, which is the company's first example of merged reality. To demonstrate the new technology, Intel executive Craig Raymond used a regular dollar bill to interact with a spinning column. As the dollar came in contact with the object, we saw it become slimmer as if the dollar was shaping it in real life.And speaking of merged or mixed reality, Microsoft was on hand during the IDF keynote to discuss the company's plans to collaborate with Intel, announcing Windows Holographic experience will be available for mainstream PCs starting next year.
That means soon you'll have the ability to connect a headset to your Windows 10 PC and interact with both 3D and 2D programs, allowing for some pretty sweet multitasking action that includes pulling up your email, Skype and calendar and superimposing them onto your living room wall. Or you can just go for full immersion and take a tour of destinations like the Pantheon in Rome. Unfortunately, for all of that to work, it looks like you'll have to connect to the PC, which dictates a cord of some sort. Microsoft and Intel are teaming to work on the version one specs for both the headset and PCs so other manufacturers can adopt the technology and deliver a product with consistent results.