Virtual reality is becoming real. Companies have begun using VR to allow potential customers to try out products before buying them, or to experience a destination before traveling there, and movie studios have begun using the technology in trailers.
One reason for the surge in interest is that VR technology has become much more affordable. Google Cardboard uses a simple cardboard viewer to turn an ordinary smartphone into VR device.
Of course, higher-end headsets make the VR experience all the more immersive. Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the dominant headsets. Now, Intel is getting into the high end VR market with Project Alloy. Unlike the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which require the use of handheld controllers to interact with the virtual environment, Project Alloy will allow users to simply use their hands. Project Alloy will also include real-world elements into the virtual scene if they are in camera range. The ability to use natural gestures and to incorporate real-world people into the virtual environment will create a different, so-called "merged reality" experience for Project Alloy users.
Microsoft will also be developing similar "mixed reality" experiences through the Windows Holographic Shell. The shell, planned for release late next year, will let any Windows-equipped PC generate VR images (as long as the user has a headset to view them). Perhaps it's no surprise that Microsoft and Intel are collaborating on specifications for VR PCs and headsets. They may be hoping to stimulate a broad range of VR development and encourage users to purchase new devices in order to enjoy augmented or virtual reality experiences.
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