After some lackluster demos and a seeming lack of support from the company at CES, it looked like things were going south for Intel’s Project Tango endeavor. However, at Mobile World Congress, the group showed off much more impressive demos, new hand- and object-virtualization using only the RealSense camera, and its own VR HMD.
Yes, its own HMD. Don’t get too excited, though; it’s not as if Intel is looking to compete with the likes of Oculus and HTC here. This HMD falls somewhere between Gear VR and Google Cardboard on the quality scale, and it’s meant to be a value-add for the Project Tango smartphone. In fact, I was told that Intel is considering giving the HMD away for free along with the smartphone dev kit.
However, Intel’s Project Tango team is looking to continually unlock new experiences with the phone, and with the HMD, that includes exploring the idea of enabling multiplayer interactions within a VR environment. That’s not nuthin’, as they say, and it taps into a certain realm of VR being pioneered by the likes of Altspace VR. Within Altspace, you can attend virtual meetups with other people, and you’re all represented by avatars. This sort of VR videoconferencing/hangouts idea is yet another vector of the VR world that will entice people into using the technology.
Although I do not believe that Intel generally, nor its Project Tango smartphone team specifically, has any particular plans to push further into the HMD business, it does now have one. Bear in mind that with this Project Tango smartphone, Intel is focused more on showing off what its RealSense cameras can do rather than on making smartphones, but if that’s the case, why not continue to develop an HMD to pair with the camera technology?
After all, they showed me VR demos using the RealSense camera’s ability to see hands and objects and recreate them inside a VR experience. Clearly, the team has VR on the brain.