Project Alloy virtual reality headset at CES 2017

Do you remember my first article about Project Alloy? I said that it would have disrupted the VR market… and not surprisingly, all headsets are going wireless, like Vive has done with TPCAST and Oculus with Santa Cruz.

Intel has brought an Alloy prototype at CES this year and has made some showcases on the stage and in its own booth. So, what do we know about Alloy after CES?

First of all, we know that Intel will start selling its first implementation of Alloy in Q4 2017. Currently they have only a prototype. Let me remember you that Alloy is not the name of a device, but more of a project, of a set of guidelines to follow to have an Alloy-like standalone headset that offers Merged Reality. It is like Microsoft Hololens: a set of guidelines where the manufacturer makes the first exemplar. So, Intel is making the first device and hopes that other companies will make other Alloy compatible headsets.

Intel has made great showcases of it. First of all it showed a video about their vision. Let me tell you what I think about it. First of all, I’ve enough of big companies raping common established naming conventions. “Merged reality” term does not exist: its true name should be Augmented Virtuality, because this is the scientific name of what Intel does in the real-virtual spectrum (like terms Mixed Reality and Hologram from Microsoft… FFFFFF). Secondly, the video is just super-fluff marketing showing a party with cool girls and Robin Thicke having fun… with a voice trying to convey you subliminal messages to think their Merged Reality is cool. I’ve watched it and I want my 2 minutes of life back. Anyway, if you want to give it a look, this is the video:

After this marketing thing, they actually shown 2 cool things. First of all, present state of their hands tracking. Do you remember the old tracking status? You can look at its video in my previous article. Well, now it is much better:

Hands are now segmented quite well (it means that hands contour is good, even if I can still spot glitches here and there) and tracking is good. Intel has made lots of step further. Their vision is that you can use your own hands (so not avatar hands) in VR with all finger tracked (like with Leap Motion). Awesome, even if I don’t know if this is exactly what I want in VR… why should I see my own hands? If all the world around me is cartoon-style, for example, seeing my true hands can surely break the presence. But for interactions with 360° 3D videos, maybe in conjuntion with this super-epic cool stuff Intel itself has made, their choice can surely be a win.

Second cool stuff it showed has been local multiplayer vision. Intel has showcased this demo with 2 people playing inside the same room within VR: since the system can detect people, everyone is aware of the position of the other and there is no security risk. Plus, Alloy can scan the environment and produce a game that fits exactly within the place we’re playing in… something similar to what Hololens already makes. This is the coolest feature Alloy has showcased, in my opinion.

Intel Alloy multiplayer CES 2017
Little extract from the local multiplayer demo. See how each player can see the head and the hands of all other players (GIF from Upload VR)

Alloy will support Microsoft Holographic APIs and this is another great news.

But, if their vision is cool, the present status is not that great. Ian Hamilton from UploadVR has been able to try it and has written a very interesting review with a comparison between Alloy and Oculus Santa Cruz. I advice you to read it here at this link. The TL;DR version is: Alloy positional tracking at the moment jitters a lot, the tracking drifts, so you can’t trust it. Ian bumped into a table while playing the demo, so he stopped trusting the headsets visuals, so the experience has been completely ruined. The headsets still overheats and his controller has only 3 DOF. Oculus Santa Cruz, instead, had great tracking.

What it comes out from that review is that Intel has a great vision, but has still a lot of work to do. Hope that at next event they’ll show other progress!

(Header image by Intel)

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Skarredghost

AR/VR developer, startupper, zombie killer. Sometimes I pretend I can blog, but actually I’ve no idea what I’m doing.

I tried to change the world with my startup Immotionar, offering super-awesome full body virtual reality, but now the dream is over. But I’ve still not waken up…