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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

Intel has its very own VR headset, and it's like no headset you've seen before. It's a fully untethered, fully immersive experience that doesn't require a cord, with built-in RealSense cameras that let you see your hands, even reach out and interact with objects inside a virtual world.

We got a closer look at the 2016 Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, and here's what we saw.

Published:Caption:Photo:Stephen Shankland/CNET
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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

Here's the Intel Project Alloy prototype on a table. Not too shabby, right? Definitely not bad for an early prototype of a reference design that will be totally rethought by headset manufacturers before it ever sees a store shelf.

It's a little heavy -- maybe 2 to 3 pounds -- but again, early days.

Published:Caption:Photo:Sean Hollister/CNET
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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

What's inside? A sixth-gen Intel Core processor, screens, lenses and a whole lot of sensors.

Published:Caption:Photo:Intel
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Inside Project Alloy

This spiderlike piece of metal is where much of the magic happens. It's a 3D-printed section with two Intel RealSense depth cameras (three lenses each!) and two fish-eye cameras on the sides for tracking things in your peripheral vision.

Published:Caption:Photo:Sean Hollister/CNET
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What the headset sees

Why so many cameras? So it can see your real-world hands, track them and let you use them to interact with a virtual world.

Published:Caption:Photo:Stephen Shankland/CNET
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What the headset sees

One example that Intel showed off: you could pick up a real credit card with your real hand, and use it to carve a virtual object on a virtual pottery wheel.

Published:Caption:Photo:GIF by Sean Hollister/CNET
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Inside Project Alloy

Here's a closer look at one of the fish-eye cameras...

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Inside Project Alloy

...and a closer look at the two RealSense modules. Intel says it'd like to cut it down to one, but two gives it a wider field of view.

Published:Caption:Photo:Sean Hollister/CNET
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Intel RealSense modules

Today's Project Alloy prototype is based on Intel's previous Realsense ZR300 modules, the third one down in this picture. But see the bottom module?

Published:Caption:Photo:Sean Hollister/CNET
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Intel RealSense modules

That's the RealSense 400, and Intel claims it's a huge leap forward for VR. While previous RealSense could only see things between 3m and 20m away, the new sensor has a range of 0.1m to 60m, plus a wider field of view and far more resolution. Intel says it captures 55 million 3D points per second, 3x the previous version.

You can probably expect to see it in future Alloy headsets.

Published:Caption:Photo:Sean Hollister/CNET
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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

But let's get back to the headset itself, shall we?

Published:Caption:Photo:Sean Hollister/CNET
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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

There's a volume rocker and what appears to be a headphone jack on the right edge.

Published:Caption:Photo:Sean Hollister/CNET
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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

This big band around back houses the Alloy's rechargeable battery, and serves as a nice counterbalance for the headset. The padded band rests underneath the back of your head, much like Sony's PlayStation VR.

Published:Caption:Photo:Sean Hollister/CNET
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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

Around the sides, the band ratchets into place with a pair of invisible latches built into the frame. It felt a little bit tight on my head, but I can't really complain, since it's an early prototype of a reference design that won't ever be sold to consumers.

Published:Caption:Photo:Sean Hollister/CNET
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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

Inside, it looks much like any other high-end VR headset -- like an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift -- though we can't comment on image quality or field of view because we couldn't power on this unit. We can see what appear to be a pair of custom Fresnel lenses.

Published:Caption:Photo:Sean Hollister/CNET
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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

Going in closer, you can see the lenses have adjustable IPD (interpupillary distance) -- aka the distance between your eyes. How do you adjust them?

Published:Caption:Photo:Sean Hollister/CNET
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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

This purple dial on the bottom of the headset does the trick. The lenses ratchet slowly into position. You can also see a couple of buttons on the right side of the headset, dubbed C1 and C2.

Published:Caption:Photo:Sean Hollister/CNET
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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

Underneath a flap, you'll find a few ports: one full-size USB 3.0 socket, one mini USB 3.0 socket, and what appears to be a Micro-HDMI jack.

Published:Caption:Photo:Sean Hollister/CNET
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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

One last pic of the Intel Project Alloy prototype being lifted off a real human being's head.

Published:Caption:Photo:Stephen Shankland/CNET
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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

And now, we've got quite a few official Intel pictures of the headset.

Published:Caption:Photo:Intel Corporation
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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

Bottom view.

Published:Caption:Photo:Intel Corporation
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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

Top view.

Published:Caption:Photo:Intel Corporation
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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

Right-angle view.

Published:Caption:Photo:Intel Corporation
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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

Imagine if it were entirely black.

Published:Caption:Photo:Intel Corporation
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Side view.

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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

Some more perspective.

Published:Caption:Photo:Intel Corporation
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Intel Project Alloy VR headset

One last official image.

Published:Caption:Photo:Intel Corporation
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