The First Intel Alloy-Powered VR Headset Is Releasing This Holiday Season

by Joe Durbin • March 17th, 2017

Intel told UploadVR the first VR headset built on its Project Alloy reference design will be available to purchase this holiday season from a third party manufacturer.

There will be a “product in market based off of the alloy headset by holiday of this year,” according to Nicole Smith, the head of communications for VR at Intel.

Smith declined to disclose which manufacturer will be creating this new product and bringing it to market, but did clarify that Intel is “working with a lead partner to get a device out this year.”

p alloy

Project Alloy is the term for a wireless self-contained VR headset powered by Intel’s technology with inside-out positional tracking. This essentially means that Alloy can find its precise location in a room without requiring a separate PC and external sensors — a key feature that would make VR more convenient. Google, Facebook and Microsoft are joining Intel in racing to deliver this feature in affordable packages. To be clear, Intel has no interest in manufacturing and selling Alloy as a consumer product. Instead, they are giving other companies access to its design and letting them put out headsets of their own. The upshot for Intel is a new product category powered by internal hardware provided by Intel.

According to Smith, the full reference design for Alloy includes a suite of Intel’s latest technology including “two of our RealSense” modules “and will incorporate new components from our recent acquisition of Movidius.” Movidius is a computer vision company that Intel officially acquired late last year. Its technology could play a key role in the functionality of headsets powered by Intel’s tech, which heavily emphasizes the ability to see and understand a physical environment.

intel-alloy

This unnamed manufacturer would not be required to use every feature in the Alloy reference design, however. When asked if it would at least be untethered and use the RealSense inside-out tracking, Smith responded that “our goal is to use our reference design to help our partners create the best all-in-one product. I can’t speak to what their final product will include.”

Intel also plans to distribute Project Alloy development kits to software studios this year. According to Smith, this will happen in Q2 2017. Even in the most optimistic of circumstances, however, this might not provide enough time for any meaningful software to be created for this holiday-release headset. Oculus Rift and HTC Vive both went through multiple development kit cycles before finally going consumer. We asked Smith to address a potential lack of compelling content for the partner Alloy HMD at launch.

The unnamed manufacturer “already has dev kits in hand so they’ve already been working on and deciding on what their use cases will be,” Smith said. “It is up to our partners or developers to offer what they want from a use case perspective. There will be opportunities for gaming and education, but where the developer may want to focus is up to them.”

We also asked if there was a chance this Alloy-powered headset could work with pre-existing VR experiences on a platform like Steam. According to Smith, compatibility could be an issue due to the design’s unique input methods, tracking and more limited processor compared to a high-specification PC needed to run a Rift or Vive.

Finally, the price of an Alloy-based VR headset was previously stated by Intel to be priced similarly with a laptop, close to $1000. Smith did not officially confirm a price for the releasing headset, but said a price in that range “makes sense.”

Smith said that more news about Alloy’s first mass market headset will be forthcoming “in the next two months or so.”

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  • VR Geek

    ” Even in the most optimistic of circumstances, however, this might not provide enough time for any meaningful software to be created for this holiday-release headset”. If the Alloy has a full i7 PC inside and high end GPU, I suspect many ViVe titles could be ported over. That would be my hope and I am sure many other developers hopes as that would kickstart Alloy and frankly room scale VR in general beyond the reach of the ViVe. I was not too sure about inside out tracking capabilities until this week when I tried Hololens finally and wow, it was very tight. Comparable with ViVe and better in that I was able to wander around a large space (6x13M space).

    • Denis Koroskin

      No way it will have a full i7 (or a desktop-class GPU). It has to be passively cooled and have power draw similar to a tablet/. If anything, it will utilize something like Core-m3, a tablet-optimized SoC with mere 4.5W power draw. HD Graphics 615 that Core m3-7Y30 is using is highly respectable and can produce very nice graphics if you know how to optimize for it. Rated at 350-400 GFLOPs, it is roughly 15 times slower than GTX 970, and on par with GearVR.

      • VR Geek

        I have to disagree and am surprised by this comment given that Road to Virtual Reality already confirmed that it will be a “PC-class” 6th-generation Intel Core processor. Trusted Reviews suspect it may be a Intel Core i7-6820HK processor and Tomshardware thinks it may be an i5 or i7. I would link you to where these articles are, but Upload VR removed my post when I did. Shame on you UploadVR. What are you so fearful of?

        • Joan Villora Jofré

          I read it in PCWorld (JAN 4)

        • Smanny

          Most likely it will be a 7th gen Intel SoCs. Especially since this is a standalone headset. The 7th gen will be built on 10 nm. The SoC that you are listing is 45 watts and built on 14 nm technology. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a standalone VR headset is NOT going to be using the Core i7-6820HK. So unless you are going to be walking around with a cable that powers this VR headset, then it will be using a SoC that is much more power efficient.

      • Joan Villora Jofré

        They said i7 ‘Kaby Lake’ 14nm or maybe ‘Cannon Lake’ 10nm

    • Xron

      Mm… where will they get power to use high class gpu or even cpu?…

      The price is insane aswell -.-, for 1.1/1.2k you can buy rift and a pc thats fully capable running it. So… You will have way more beefier specs to run a good game or some app… + you can use pc for some other needs not only games or using some apps.
      For me it looks like a missing linj between mobile and pc vr, but not for this price… for sure…

      • VR Geek

        I would gladly trade graphics for house scale and larger VR and no wires. In fact some of my most favorite VR titles are very low fidelity. Graphics that are simple are just as neat as those that are more realistic in VR IMO. I think people are applying the current 2D gaming model to VR which is an entirely different experience and cannot be compared. In terms of power it will be like any decent notebook. Their batteries are not that big and can be added to the head strap or on a belt clip etc. This is all much more doable than you realize.

        • 1droidfan

          This sounds like the headset for you but not for a lot of other people like me who would rather have higher fidelity graphics, 4k per eye displays, things that are not realizable with mobile GPUs at this time. Honestly I dont like room scale things as much because I dont trust myself walking around not being able to see the real world. A step or two is fine, but thats about my limit. To each his own.

          • polysix

            I agree, and especially for $1000.

            That kind of low end stuff is ok, graphically, for $200 but if you are paying just for the luxury of free roam and all-in-one then once you are over the novelty of free roam you will realise how held back the system is on power and it’ll feel like a gimmick. Even gen 1 Vive/Rift is BARELY good enough for most, even with the fastest PC on earth. It needs higher res, fov, foveated (and hopefully wireless) but wireless in mobile/all-in-ones is a VR red-herring frankly, a gimmick, that appeals at the right price but tails off.

        • Xron

          Well, maybe they can get underclocked 6820hk working on this device, but as I said before, its just won’t have performance to run most of apps and games oculus and vive are using, and devs won’t try to lower settings just for this device, difference in performance is just way too big.
          Though its a good step in right direction I think its too early to cut off pc power yet. Maybe after 5+ years there will be significant jump in APu’s (gpu/cpu) and the device might run todays apps.

        • polysix

          free roaming is/would be awesome with proper inside out tracking for ‘house scale’ VR.

          Bad resolution, shitty graphics, low frame rate, and bad input wouldn’t be.

          I’ll take all the latter issues ‘fixed’ before the former has any meaning to me. I’m stick of staring at low res stuff in VR, including basic polygon worlds (had PSVR, DK2 and Vive – all sold waiting GEN 2 hopefully 4k with foveated & wireless PC streaming)

        • VR Geek

          I agree with many of your comments that it will not be as good as for some they need a higher quality experience to be sucked in. Others will even need retina quality and full 210 FOV before they get sucked in. Others will wait for brain interface VR (AKA the Matrix) before they are sucked in. For me it took the ViVe to suck me in for more than a short demo. I have spent hours at a time in there and loved it. I am also fairly certain that the new crop of inside out tracking wireless HMDs without external tracker limits will also suck me in as I am totally sucked in with games like Budget cuts and that is totally doable on mobile with its low poly, low shader etc. graphics. Give me space to roam without wires and be able to take with me to even larger spaces…all for $1000. SOLD. It will only get better from here and eventually everyone will get the VR they desire.

    • 12Danny123

      I don’t think SteamVR can run on a standalone HMD. It’ll need to be booted into Windows first. But the desktop OS don’t support a VR UI. Aside from Microsoft’s own VR platform.

  • Wireless, position tracked, all-in-one VR sounds intriguing.

    Anyone know if hand controllers could be tracked by it?

    I assume no, as inside out tracking, so no external sensor… but maybe 3DOF controller + depth cameras = 6DOF when in view…?

    • 1droidfan

      I think it tracks your hands and figures using the depth sensor and figures out their position/rotation similar to a kinect 2. I wish it could connect wireless to a PC to do rendering. The latency could be an issue but I imagine the headset graphics and CPU could be powerful enough to do only the re-projection to the current headset position/orientation.

  • CES reviews of Alloy were not enthusiastics (too many problems), I wonder how they can release so fast a first version, unless it is a prototype to get feedback from the market