Intel’s Project Alloy – an Amazing VR Demo at CES 2017

We were blown away by Intel’s Project Alloy when it first surfaced in fall 2016. And at CES 2017, they did another demo focused on gaming. This time, they turned a living room into a full multiplayer gaming environment. You’re no longer hiding behind or shooting over your couch. Your living space has been turned into another world altogether.

Here’s the short segment of the press conference covering Intel’s Project Alloy:

Intel’s Project Alloy

What makes Project Alloy fascinating is that it is untethered, multiplayer virtual reality. From Tech Crunch:

The idea here is straightforward. Devices like the Oculus — which Intel is also using during the press conference, with a headset in each seat — rely on being tethered to a computing system (here they were attached to massive, heavy laptops); other services like Microsoft’s Kinect require physical hardware sensors to get their spatial bearings. The Alloy aims to put all of that kind of computing into the device itself.

Obviously, the headset has to pack some serious technology to pull this off.

Each device will feature an Intel seventh generation Core processor, a vision processor, fisheye lens and sensors, two RealSense cameras and an on-device battery, and will be built in conjunction with a number of partners.

What seemed like a concept in the fall now has firm production plans – it will be released in the fourth quarter of 2017. Of course, other questions still remain. Lot’s of technology in a untethered VR headset runs into the brute facts of battery life. You can make it last, but you make it heavy.

Intel didn’t name manufacturers or say if the fall model would a developer or consumer edition. In fact, we’re still far enough away that the press conference made use of Oculus tethered VR headsets. There were functioning demo units on the stage but not for the audience. In other words, here’s our cool device, but we have use a competitor’s device to show you.

Intel's Project Alloy not quite ready - the press conference relied on Oculus Rift VR headsets
Intel’s press conference relied on Oculus Rift VR headsets

Project Alloy wasn’t all

Surprisingly, Intel focused on a number of groundbreaking virtual reality technologies. It was as if they were at a Las Vegas casino and decided to place multiple bets on VR. They’ve been actively acquiring VR companies over the past year, including Voke for immersive sports and chipmaker Movidius that designs computer vision processors.

Two of their demos were fascinating. In one, they did stereoscopic VR which dramatically enhances the customary 360 video we all use. You can look around objects and see what is behind them. It’s stunning. But it only comes via a huge increase in data – each video frame was 3 GB.

Let that sink in for a moment – 3 GB per video frame.

The second demo was a live feed from a drone inspecting solar panels in the desert outside of Las Vegas. You watch this and only see endless possibilities for use in work and education environments.

As Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich noted, all this requires tons of data. He noted that Intel projects

. . . that by 2020 the average person will generate 1.5 gigabytes per day of data, up from 650 MB today.

And it will be exponentially more if you’re using wireless VR. We leave it to you to ponder the ramifications for an IT shop or even managing your home network. Your data pipe now is nothing more than a leaky faucet compared to the torrent you’ll be downloading a few years from now.

Krzanich said Moore’s Law is alive and well. With wireless VR coming, it better be.