Lenovo to Use Movidius Advanced Vision Tech in Next-Gen VR Products

Under the deal, Lenovo will be able to use Movidius' Myriad 2 Vision Processing Unit and virtual reality algorithms in future VR products.

Lenovo, Movidius, VR, virtual reality, Oculus, Myriad 2 Vision Processing Unit

Lenovo is stepping up its game in the world of virtual reality products by signing a deal to use advanced vision processing technology from Movidius in its next-generation VR gear.

Under a partnership that was announced June 7, Lenovo will gain access to Movidius' Myriad 2 Vision Processing Unit (VPU) hardware and its custom computer vision algorithms for inclusion in VR hardware created and sold by Lenovo. The Myriad 2 chip provides vision-based tasks such as head tracking, gesture recognition and blending multiple video streams into interactive VR video, while having a compact size and low power needs that allow it to be packed into handheld and head-worn devices.

No additional details were given about the partnership or its potential value, or about any specific Lenovo products that might use the Myriad 2 in the future. The companies did say that the first Lenovo products that use the Myriad 2 VPU are expected in the second half of 2016, with more details to come about the technology during the second annual Lenovo Tech World event on June 9 in San Francisco.

The Myriad 2 VPU includes 12 high-performance programmable vector cores, which will allow Lenovo to use custom algorithms as required by various new products, the companies said in a statement. The Myriad 2 has a built-in Image Signal Processor (ISP) and hardware accelerators that improve device performance by offloading all vision-related tasks from a device's CPU and GPU.

"Our technology was built to maximize machine vision performance in a sub-1 Watt power budget," Remi El-Ouazzane, the CEO of Movidius, said in a statement. "In selecting Myriad 2 for their VR products, Lenovo is building devices designed from the ground-up for VR. We're very much looking forward to these no-compromise devices that will push VR adoption into the mainstream."

Lenovo, the world's top PC maker, has been aiming to become a larger player in many technology markets. In 2014, it purchased the Motorola Mobility device business from Google and bought IBM's x86 server business, according to an earlier eWEEK story. In the smartphone market, Lenovo is competing against the likes of Apple, Samsung, Huawei and fast-growing Chinese company Xiaomi.

The VR market is apparently Lenovo's latest target, where it will take on competitors including Oculus, Samsung, HTC, Sony, Acer and others.

"Lenovo has a long tradition of bringing innovative products to the market," Li Xiang, the manager of Lenovo's Shanghai research and technology group, said in a statement. "Myriad 2 is unique in its ability to deliver the kind of vision compute performance we need for our next generation VR products. We can build the products we want, without compromising on cost, size, performance or battery life."

At Lenovo Tech World, the company is expected to unveil new products and concepts in mobile devices, the Internet of things, virtual reality and other markets. This year's event will be held at The Masonic in San Francisco and comes after the company's first such conference, held last year in China. Lenovo is also expected at the event to launch the first consumer Project Tango-enabled smartphone in partnership with Google, bringing augmented reality capabilities to a handset.

Google's Project Tango was introduced in February 2014 as an initiative to compress current understanding about robotics and computer vision into a mobile phone, according to a past eWEEK article. The idea of the project is to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion that will allow the devices to provide more data to users than is seen on a touch screen. Project Tango is designed to capture and track large amounts of data using 3D measurements to help make it possible using extra intelligence.

The Project Tango-enabled smartphone will give users new ways to experience the world—enabling them to map their way inside a museum or to create a 3D gaming environment to visualize how a new refrigerator might fit into their kitchen.

Lenovo Tech World's keynote address will be live-streamed at 1 p.m. EDT on June 9 via YouTube.

The global virtual reality headset market is expected to bring in about $895 million in revenue in 2016, but while 77 percent of that revenue will come for premium-priced products from Oculus, HTC and Sony, the actual per-device sales totals will be dominated by lower-priced headsets from a myriad of vendors, according to a new report from research firm Strategy Analytics.

The report looked at the VR headset market and predicted that three of the latest devices, the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive and the coming Sony PlayStation VR, will bring in the bulk of the segment's revenue this year. At the same time, though, those higher-priced devices will only make up about 13 percent of the 12.8 million VR headsets that Strategy Analytics predicts will be sold in 2016, according to the report.

Most of the growth in VR headsets will come from smartphone-based products, while VR systems that work with PCs and game consoles "will barely exceed 1.7 million devices shipped globally in 2016 due to prohibitively high pricing," the report continues.