Intel Teases Depth-Sensing HTC Vive For Developer Conference

by Ian Hamilton • August 3rd, 2016

An Intel engineer tweeted a tease suggesting VR is going to be a major theme at the company’s developer conference in a couple weeks.

The tease is a photo of a unicorn-shaped modification to the HTC Vive that uses a series of cameras to sense the depth of surrounding objects. Leap Motion already offers a mount for its outward-facing hand tracking sensor that hooks up to the headset over USB. While being useful for hand tracking too, the sensor teased by Intel looks both robust and different from anything we’ve seen previously from Intel’s RealSense depth-sensing technology. This new sensor features three holes facing in each direction that could house different types of cameras.

We reached out to Intel Prototyping Engineer Dimitri Diakopoulos on Twitter to find out as much as we could. He told us an accessory like this could track hand movement as well as IR-tracked controllers. The system could also scan the environment in real-time. This opens up the potential to detect obstacles automatically. You don’t want to step on your cat while immersed in VR and a sensor like this could help make sure that doesn’t happen.

The sensor might also let you switch to a view of the real world if you want to, for example, sit in a chair or pick up a glass of water without taking off the headset. The play area for a headset like the HTC Vive could be automatically configured with such a feature too, eliminating a relatively involved setup process. The HTC Vive includes an outward-facing camera, but it can’t yet warn you of potential collisions outside of the Holodeck-like bounds of the room that are shown if you get too close. With this depth sensor, if you got too close to your couch you would actually see it in front of you.

Look for more information at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco from Aug. 16-18.

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What's your reaction?
  • Anthony Clay

    Looks interesting. I wonder what the FOV is for hand-tracking, with the cameras up so high? It only has to be at/beyond the Vive FOV. (preferably beyond, to establish tracking seamlessly)

    But this is intel… I’ve avoided non processor products because I’m found myself waiting months/years for formally-announced technologies and products that are never commercially released, and then die a quiet death (I’m looking at you Larrabee!)

    • AltexNB

      Speaking of Larrabee, they should bring back the game they acquired (and then were going to release as a tech demo for it) as a VR experience. Project Offset had so much promise, but it followed Larrabee to its untimely grave. And then the original developers couldn’t even get access to the assets to release it as a standalone product. For shame, Intel!

  • gdh

    Looks like 4 holes per side, my guess would be twice a “typical” but condensed r200 realsense setup, for each side two IR cams combined with IR random pattern projector, plus a color cam. Stereo baseline and IR power probably gives 3m ‘accurate enough’ depth range.

  • flavortang

    I have a feeling that Vive 2.0 is going to blow 1.0 away. It’s looking like it’ll have foveated rendering and hand tracking, among other obvious improvements like expanded FOV, and streamlined ergonomics.

    • DougP

      Re: “Vive 2.0 is going to blow 1.0 away”
      Vive 2.0 = meh!
      Vive 4.0 will make it seem like an absolute joke! 😉

    • polysix

      Lets hope so, I sold my Vive cos it just didn’t cut it, as AWESOME and FUN as it was in small doses. In many ways I preferred my DK2 (and I really don’t like rift CV1 even if it is a bit lighter). They ruined the blacks and the stupid god rays kill immersion in vive and rift now, not so in DK2. If they don’t address that then no amount of FOV, Res or comfort will help. They must sort those basics instead of hacking their way around the black swim and lens sweet spot/weight problem!

      • flavortang

        Project Alloy from Intel is also a large leap in VR hardware. It’ll be wireless with no external sensors to set up and will have a hand-tracking camera built in.

        I sold my Vive, too, because I just could not get the tracking to work for more than 20 minutes. They need to REALLY streamline the process of use for end users or VR will never expand beyond enthusiasts. I see the potential there, since my limited time in VR has largely ruined my interest in 2D gaming.

  • Fanatoli Guyoff


  • J. Edward D’Amico

    They need to be cautious. Though light on the head, the Vive would become exponentially uncomfortable if they add too much mass to the front. I can average about an hour right now with the Vive without wanting a break. That time would drop quickly if they added more weight.

    • Carlos

      The vive is already uncomfortable.

  • Keith

    Um, there is already a button on the side of the HMD that when you double-tap, it switches to the front camera view. There is also a setting that will activate the camera at the same time as the chaperone wall when you get to the edge of the play area, so yes you can see your couch if you get too close to it.

    • Ian Hamilton

      I should clarify that section because the depth sensor would do this dynamically and realistically. If you do the camera view from Vive it’s going to look funky.

    • Kyuutketsuki

      Only if the couch is on the edge of your boundaries. This could protect you from objects that are within the chaperone limits. May not be a big deal but it will protect people from their animals too I’d assume, something chaperone can’t do yet. Something like this can’t hurt the vive, it can only make it more versatile.

  • superdonkey

    hardware designers really need to start moving all of the bulk of any hmd onto some belt clip leaving the absolute minimal stuff on the head. the vive and rift are bulky enough as it is, adding more is going to make this all the more of a niche/enthusiast product. yes i know this is only a demo but still, demos tend to end up being close to what is finally released.

  • duked

    I would definetely not want to see my couch in front of me if I got close to it. A chaperone grid is much less immersive breaking.

    • DougP

      Re: “chaperone grid is much less immersive breaking
      Chaperone is also good at avoiding “neck breaking”. 🙂

  • Can be interesting to scan environments… but, apart from that, I don’t see it much more useful than a Leap Motion. And if I remember well, Leap Orion is far better than Intel Realsense hands tracking at the moment.