Lenovo just signed a chip deal that points to a VR future

Lenovo has signed a deal with Movidius, whose vision technology is used in Google's Project Tango

On the eve of its Tech World conference in San Francisco, Lenovo has signed a deal that will allow it to bring virtual reality to more of its products in the future.

The deal allows Lenovo to use Movidius's Myriad 2 vision-processing chip in upcoming devices, bringing capabilities like head tracking, motion sensing, and image and gesture recognition to Lenovo products.

Tech World takes place Thursday, and among other announcements Lenovo is expected to provide more details about its Project Tango smartphone, a product co-developed with Google that includes augmented reality features.

Google uses Movidius technology in its own Project Tango development kit, which sells for US$512 including a tablet. It seems likely that Lenovo is using a Movidius chip in its own Project Tango smartphone, too. Lenovo didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Project Tango devices use their cameras and other sensors to track motion, such as hand gestures, and they can also create a 3D map of their surroundings. The device could scan your living room, for example, and use that map as the basis for an augmented reality game.

It can also have more practical uses, like indoor navigation, or just measuring the distance from one wall to another.

"Myriad 2 is unique in its ability to deliver the kind of vision compute performance we need for our next-generation VR products," Li Xiang, Lenovo's research and technology group manager in Shanghai, said in a statement.

The Myriad 2 processor is used in DJI’s Phantom 4 autonomous drone, which can sense obstacles and make navigational decisions. It's also used in Movidius's own Fathom Neural Compute Stick, a USB stick that developers can use to bring computer vision to robots and other devices.

Lenovo already sells a headset called ANT VR, which uses a smartphone to provide VR capabilities, much like the Samsung Gear. The company has also said it's open to making a competitor to Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality headset -- something that will be a lot easier since Microsoft opened up the HoloLens platform to third parties.

The deal with Movidius suggests there could be a lot more Lenovo VR goodies to come.

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Agam Shah

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