Intel reportedly is developing a headset similar to Microsoft's HoloLens that would leverage the chip maker's RealSense 3D camera technology to offer augmented-reality capabilities.
The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed people briefed on the company's plans, reported that Intel's AR headset would rival those being developed not only by Microsoft but also by such companies as Apple, Google and IBM, as well as smaller startups.
Whether the AR headset is something Intel would try to bring to market or to use it as a sort of reference design that other companies could use as a foundation for building their own products is unclear. The anonymous sources told The Wall Street Journal that Intel most likely would provide the headset design to other companies to use.
Achin Bhowmik, vice president and general manager of Intel's Perceptual Computing Group, seemed to back that up. Bhowmik told the newspaper that he wouldn't discuss any unannounced development projects. However, he did point to Intel's past efforts in creating prototypes of products—such as PCs and mobile devices—with the aim of convincing other system makers to use the prototypes (and thus Intel technologies) in building their own products.
Since taking over as CEO in 2013, Brian Krzanich has pushed to expand Intel's reach in a broad range of growth markets, from the Internet of things (IoT) and wearables to drones, virtual reality (VR) and AR. Intel is still heavily dependent on the struggling PC market, and Krzanich is trying to diversify its product portfolio. At the same time, the chip maker was stung by being late to the mobile market as smartphones and tablets took off, and the CEO has wanted to ensure that Intel does not miss out on other fast-growing opportunities.
In addition, with such trends as the IoT, Intel officials see an opportunity to get the company's products into all parts of the market, from the billions of devices themselves that make up the IoT to foundational technologies and systems in the data center and the cloud that enable the necessary connectivity and collect, process and analyze the massive amounts of data that these devices are generating.
AR is another market that holds a lot of promise for Intel. Augmented reality is used to merge the physical and virtual worlds to supplement and improve a person's experience of his or her environment. Computer-generated elements are used to augment what the person sees, displayed on screens through smartphones and tablets or through wearable devices like smart glasses and goggles.
By comparison, in a virtual reality world, everything the user sees is computer-generated.
The focus of much of the AR world to this point has been on consumer products, from games to devices like Google Glass. However, AR in the enterprise could grow quickly. Analysts with Juniper Research expect that projects that use AR applications in the enterprise will grow from $247 million in 2014 to $2.4 billion in 2019.
Software maker PTC, at an event in Boston in January, demonstrated how AR can be used in business and introduced new technologies to accelerate the adoption. Frank Gillett, vice president and principal analyst for IoT and emerging technology at Forrester Research, told eWEEK at the PTC event that while the market for enterprise AR is still new, the potential is broad.
Intel has been developing the RealSense technology for several years and has shown its potential in an array of areas, including its use in drones to help the devices avoid collisions and navigate their environments. Officials in January also said that the company is working with a vendor called IonVR to develop an AR headset that uses a RealSense camera.
Intel also has bought some companies and invested in others to drive its AR and VR ambitions. The company last year bought Recon Instruments two years after initially investing in the company, which makes smart eyewear, and in November partnered with China's Letv Cloud Computing to develop and commercialize new types of visual technology, such as 360-degree panorama, AR and VR.