Most existing virtual reality headsets currently fall into two categories: low-power systems that use your smartphone (or smartphone-like hardware) for the display and processing, and higher-performance systems like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive which connect to your PC with wires.
Intel is showing off a wire-free, all-in-one headset called Project Alloy. It looks more like a Google Cardboard-style headset than an Oculus Rift, since there are no cables required. But the processor, cameras, battery, and other components are all built into the headset.
Project Alloy is still a work in progress, but Intel showed off a demo at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco this week, and highlighted some potential applications.
Since the system uses dual Intel RealSense cameras, it can detect depth and bring real-world objects into a virtual environment. That allows you to walk through a room or other real-world 3D space while the virtual environment reacts to your movement.
If a wall or person is in front of you, Project Alloy can project an image into virtual reality to let you know. And the RealSense cameras can detect your hands, complete with 5-finger tracking. That opens the door for using virtual tools with your real world hands as controllers.
Intel hasn’t said much about the processor or other technology powering Project Alloy, but the company has announced it’s working with Microsoft on software for the platform, based on Microsoft’s Windows Holographic system.
The company says it will also eventually offer Project Allpy as an open source project, making it possible for anyone to use Intel’s specifications to build their own hardware based on the platform.