Intel Unveils Project Alloy Merged Reality Headset And Partnership With Microsoft For Windows Holographic Shell

Intel Project Alloy Merged Reality Headset Goes Wireless At IDF 2016

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After a brief musical number featuring virtual instruments powered by Intel Curie and RealSense technologies, Intel CEO Bryan Krzanich took to the stage at the Moscone Center in San Francisco to kick off this year’s Intel Developers Forum. His opening keynote revolved around four themes: Redefining The Computing Experience, Building A World Of Virtual Intelligence, A Cloud Designed For Innovation, and Empowering The Next-Generation Of Innovators.

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To solidify those themes and demonstrate Intel’s commitment to advancing the technologies necessary to enable them, Kyrzanich unveiled a number of new projects and products, ranging from 7th Gen Intel Core “Kaby Lake” processors, to new RealSense cameras, updates and additions to Curie, a new maker platform dubbed Joule, and an upcoming head-mounted display (HMD) code-named Project Alloy.

Intel Project Alloy In Action

Project Alloy is an un-tethered, merged reality, HMD that combines compute, graphics, multiple RealSense modules, various sensors, and batteries into a completely self-contained device that offers a full six degrees of freedom. Unlike today’s high-end Virtual Reality headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, Project Alloy does not need to be wired to a PC or other device and it does not require externally mounted sensors to define a virtual space. Instead, Project Alloy uses RealSense cameras to map the actual physical world you’re in while wearing the HMD. The RealSense cameras also allow the device to bring real-world objects into the virtual world, or vice versa.

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The RealSense cameras and sensors used in Project Alloy offer full depth sensing, so obstacles can be mapped, and people and objects within camera range – like your hand, for example -- can be brought into the virtual world and accurately tracked. During a live, on-stage demo performed by Intel’s Craig Raymond, Craig’s hand was tracked and all five digits, complete with accurate bones and joint locations, were brought into the experience. Craig was able to place his hand in a virtual X-Ray machine to show the accuracy of the tracking and joint detection and he was also able to flip switches to open doors, etc. In what Brian Krzanich called the “money shot”, the Craig pulled out a folded stack of dollar bills and used them as a tool to shape a block of gold spinning on a virtual lathe.
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The Project Alloy demo showed promise, but the resolution of the hands and objects brought into the virtual world was not particularly high. Intel has time to beef up and refine the technology, however. The company plans to open source the Project Alloy hardware platform in the second half of 2017, to allow partners to create their own merged reality headsets.


To that end, Intel’s CEO also brought out Terry Myerson from Microsoft who talked a bit about Microsoft’s own HoloLens AR technology. Myerson also announced that the Windows Holographic Shell would be coming as an update to all Windows 10 PCs next year, and that Project Alloy would be supported. When paired with a compatible HMD, the Windows Holographic Shell can enable users to interact with not just 3D holographic applications, but 2D applications within the 3D world as well. Microsoft plans to release the spec for HMDs and Windows 10 PCs at WinHEC in December.

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