Wearable Tech

Intel is acquiring Movidius, maker of compact computer vision chips: Think VR, AR, drones, robots

Intel's push into augmented reality, virtual reality and robotics continues with hardware that could potentially work on untethered headsets and devices.

Intel just announced a pending acquisition of Movidius, a chip manufacturer focusing on integrated system-on-chip solutions for machine learning and computer vision. It could be a key part towards building a standalone VR headset, and more.

Movidius has developed compact chips that already power DJI's Phantom 4 drones, enabling autonomous piloting. Movidius was also close to releasing a dedicated VR headset with Lenovo earlier this year.

Intel's plans for a fully cordless VR headset with depth-sensing cameras, called Project Alloy, were unveiled at the Intel Developer Forum in August. Movidius' chips sound like a pretty good fit. Project Alloy isn't targeted until mid-2017 at the earliest.

A marriage between depth-sensing cameras and compact low-power machine-learning hardware could be key for any small devices using advanced augmented reality -- think Lenovo's upcoming Google Tango Phab 2 Pro -- or standalone mixed reality, like Microsoft's HoloLens. Or, for that matter, any self-navigating drones or robots. Or cars.

Josh Walden, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Intel's New Technology Group, says "we will look to deploy the technology across our efforts in augmented, virtual and merged reality, drones, robotics, digital security cameras and beyond" via Intel's just-published blog post.

In a press release from Movidius, CEO Remi El-Ouazzane says "our leading VPU (Vision Processing Unit) platform for on-device vision processing combined with Intel's industry leading depth sensing solution (Intel RealSense Technology) is a winning combination for autonomous machines that can see in 3D, understand their surroundings and navigate accordingly."

We'll see how this pending acquisition develops, but it sounds like a promising move for a variety of emerging technologies.