Intel Project Alloy: The End of Monitors As We Know Them


 I’m at Intel’s Developer Forum, IDF, this week and one of the most interesting parts of the keynote is Intel’s move to Mixed Reality.  At the heat of this effort are a number of key Intel technologies.   You see, there is a huge problem with VR today.  It is really hard to set up the system because you need multiple cameras, hand sensors and a tethered headset.  I’m still working on my own HTV Vive— it’is not only a pain to set up, but if I try to move around with the headset on, there is a pretty good chance I’ll run into something or face plant because I’ve tripped over the cord or one of the PCs in the room.   Intel and Microsoft are working together to fix that, and plan to have that fix in the market in 2017.  The unintended consequence, though, may be that monitors will be dead.  

What I think was fascinating was that Intel showcased a headset that is in direct competition with Microsoft’s Hololens, but likely would be better for things like gaming. Meanwhile Microsoft’s effort, which is far more refined and mature, would be better for the industrial implementations that currently define it.

I’ll get to that in a moment; let’s first discuss Mixed Reality.

Mixed Reality

This is similar to what Microsoft called Holographics, but with one distinct difference.   Mixed reality allows real objects to interact with virtual objects in what is a VR world.  Holographics let virtual objects interact with real objects in a real world.  

So, if you look at Intel’s headset, it is just like a VR headset except it has Intel’s Real Sense cameras on the front and sides.  This places the viewer in a rendered world and any real objects are seen by the cameras and integrated into that rendered world.   Microsoft’s Hololens is basically a semitransparent set of goggles; it also has cameras but they are positional, which allows rendered objects to appear like magic in the actual room you are in. 

The advantage to the Intel approach is that you can create a photorealistic world based on real or imagined objects and, in theory, make each indistinguishable from the other—except nothing you see is truly real.  The advantage to Microsoft’s approach is you can actually see everything around you, even through the virtual objects, making it much safer for working on something and far less power hungry. It should also be lighter and easier to wear all day.  

So if you are working on something, the Hololens is by far the most ideal solution because you can actually see what you are working on, but Intel’s Mixed Reality headset would be better if you don’t actually need to touch the physical things around you and vastly better for games which, as a result, should be more immersive. 

In both cases you reduce the risk of walking or tripping on things because you can see them.

The Death Of Monitors

Now one of Microsoft’s presentations with Hololens is its ability to put a display on any surface, but the problem with their technology, at least in its current form, is that it doesn’t obscure what is behind it so you can see the wall behind any virtual monitor or TV you project and it just kind of floats there.   With Intel’s, since the entire scene is rendered, you not only can see a monitor like it would actually appear but you could decorate your office virtually and make it look like you were working on the bridge of a space ship, in Captain Nemo’s office under the sea, or in Jurassic Park, and it would look like a monitor or TV with no transparency.  

I think, once mature, you will be able to not only have as big a display or as many as you would like, which is what is being showcased, but to actually reimagine your work or living space. 

Wrapping Up:  RIP Monitors

While I think we are in the last decade for monitors, resolutions and prices for this technology, not to mention weight, will likely keep our trusty monitors in place for the next 10 years.  After that though, and even before for those with the money, we’ll see a sharp decline in monitor use as they follow FAX machines, iPods and PDAs into technology obscurity.  

The world is becoming virtual, and by this time next decade many of us will likely largely living in a mixed reality world and will game, work and watch TV on displays and in rooms only limited by our imaginations.   I can hardly wait.   

Edited by Alicia Young
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President and Principal Analyst, Enderle Group

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