Intel May Take On Microsoft With Its Own Augmented-Reality Headset

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SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 16: The Intel logo is displayed outside of the Intel headquarters on January 16, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. Intel will report fourth quarter earnings after the closing bell. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Photograph by Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Intel(INTC) is reportedly working on its own augmented-reality headset, which would make use of the company’s RealSense technology. It appears this would be a reference design for other manufacturers, rather than an end product in itself.

RealSense is the tech that Intel is putting into its latest webcams, giving them depth-sensing capabilities alongside high-resolution image capturing. It’s the key to the chip firm’s imagined future of gesture-based computing interfaces and, according to the Wall Street Journal, it’s going to give the firm its answer to the likes of Google(GOOG) Glass and Microsoft’s(MSFT) HoloLens.

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Augmented reality (or, as Microsoft calls it, “mixed reality”) differs from virtual reality in that it involves superimposing virtual elements onto the real world — think Who Framed Roger Rabbit or Space Jam as opposed to a regular cartoon.

Camera technology and speedy image processing are central to this effort, because augmented reality requires constant measurements of the real world, in order to make those virtual elements look as in-place as possible.

The first applications for augmented reality involved holding smartphones over magazine pages while using a special app, in order to see advertisements “come to life.” However, we are now starting to see more useful applications of the technology, such as smart bike helmets that put key information into the visor.

For more on Microsoft HoloLens, watch:

Indeed, Intel’s RealSense is already making it into some of these new products. At CES in January, Daqri announced a smart helmet, using RealSense, for workers in factories and on building sites.

According to the Journal, “people briefed on the company’s plans” said Intel’s own headset design is coming, and it will try to license it to other manufacturers rather than commercialize it itself. The firm has spent between $300 million and $500 million on augmented-reality companies in recent years, and seems to be looking to build a complete system rather than just selling parts.

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