A few weeks after learning Intel cancelled its Project Alloy reference design VR headset, a report indicates the chipmaker did the same thing with its AR brand Recon.
A report from Bloomberg said Intel shut down Recon earlier this summer. The company, which Intel acquired in 2015, made a Google Glass-like add-on for eye wear like sports and safety goggles. It offered a hands-free display with helpful information like speed or workout data layered into the edge of your field of vision. According to the report the unit had 100 employees before Recon was closed, though Intel is expected to fulfill existing contracts for the technology.
Intel seemed to be locked out of the market for VR headsets by Microsoft, which partnered with PC manufacturers including HP, Dell and Acer for a series of headsets based on its tracking technology. Also, manufacturers like HTC are partnering with Qualcomm and Google for standalone headsets. This leaves little market for Intel’s RealSense depth sensing features in VR headsets, which would have helped Intel extend the use of its chips into new device categories.
With AR, it seems plausible the market wasn’t big enough for goggles enhanced with the limited capabilities inherent to the small Recon display. In contrast, Microsoft’s HoloLens places objects believably in the real world by displaying them for both eyes in the center of your vision. While HoloLens is expensive priced at $3,000, this type of display is more intuitive and useful for activities like on-the-job training.
Intel largely missed the market for supplying chips to phones and tablets and it could be poised for a rough road ahead in VR and AR. Though the company benefits from supplying processors inside PCs powering the wired VR headsets sold today, the market for head-mounted hardware should get dramatically larger as VR headsets go wireless and AR headsets become more capable and less expensive. Intel may have to change its strategy going forward to take advantage of that opportunity, and these closures could be the first steps.