Lenovo usually shows up to CES with a bunch of laptops and monitors, but this year, it’s bringing along something quite a bit different: Project Chronos, a device that lets you beam an avatar of yourself into virtual worlds.
The device, a medium-size gray box powered by a 13th Gen Intel core processor, uses an RGB depth camera to capture your movements. In a demo, Lenovo showed the camera being used to create virtual versions of users in real time. One person did some jumping jacks that animated smoothly. Later, they wound up a kick and sent a soccer ball into a goal. The video also showed how Chronos can capture some facial movements, though they looked just a little bit off — one person’s smile was closer to scary than warm.
“Hybrid experiences that are immersive yet convenient are on the rise as the lines between the physical and the virtual continue to blur,” Lee Highsmith, a worldwide competitive analyst at Lenovo, said in a virtual press briefing ahead of CES. “With Project Chronos, the goal is to create virtual and hybrid experiences by vividly capturing full body motion and even clearly visible facial expressions in near-real time.”
Chronos’ camera can be adjusted to capture a specific angle or turned inward for privacy. The device is flat and unassuming, meaning you shouldn’t have too much trouble placing it above or below a display. Lenovo is also making a remote to help navigate menus if you are using it from far away.
However, there are a lot of caveats here. The brief demos were shown as prerecorded footage. It’s unclear if this device will someday go on sale and, if it does, how much it might cost, though the “intent” is to ship the device in 2023, Lenovo spokesperson Jeff Witt tells The Verge. And we don’t know what apps the device might be compatible with, and Witt said there isn’t anything on that front to announce on Wednesday.
That being said, Project Chronos seems like an interesting way to “transport” people to virtual worlds without asking them to strap a cumbersome VR headset to their face. We’ll have to wait and see if it fares better than the spiritually similar Microsoft Kinect.