Intel recently hosted a 100-year-old man at its virtual reality lab in Hillsboro, Oregon. Lyle Becker was a big fan of the VR flight simulator, which reminded him of the planes that he flew in World War II. That kind of first-time experience evokes a sense of wonder at the immersiveness of VR, and that’s why Kim Pallister, director of VR excellence at Intel, believes so much that VR will be a transformative medium.
While VR is off to a slow start, Pallister believes that it will catch on in the long run. Intel recently pivoted away from a tech demo that it called Project Alloy, a stand-alone VR headset, to something entirely different. The first generation of VR headsets, such as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, are connected to powerful personal computers via wires. Everybody wants those wires to go away, but how you tackle the issue matters.
Pallister said Intel tried at first to put the processing power in the headset itself so that you don’t have to connect a wire to a PC. But the company also worked on connecting the headset display to a PC via a wireless technology. Pallister thinks that will deliver a much better experience.
The WiGig wireless networking technology, which uses a short-range 60-gigahertz radio, can transfer data at fast enough rates to feed VR imagery from a PC to the display in a VR headset. With the WiGig connection, VR headset makers will be able to exploit the extra processing power available in a full desktop computer, rather than a more limited processor that has to run on battery power in a compact headset.
I recently joined a small group of journalists who jointly interviewed Pallister. We talked about Becker, the immersive nature of VR, Project Alloy, WiGig, and Intel’s partnership with Blueprint Reality on a VR presentation technology. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.