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With spider robots and BMX bike stunts taking the stage at the opening keynote for this year’s Intel Developer Forum (and hardly any details about actual chips) it’s clear Intel wants to be known for more than just computer CPUs. It’s a wise move, especially if you consider the dwindling PC market. Indeed, the company has been on this trajectory for a while now, with a push into the Internet of Things (remember the smart mug and connected baby onesie from CES 2014?). More recently, too, the company has made a big investment in wearables with its button-sized Curie module and the purchase of several wearable companies, including Basis and Recon. Intel has also branched out into other arenas, like RealSense, its depth-sensing, 3D-scanning tech. As Brian Krzanich, Intel’s CEO, said during an interview at IDF: "We want to be everywhere."Slideshow-313605
That is certainly the case with wearables, which Krzanich pointed out to me during a brief tour of the IDF show floor. "I believe we can bring a lot of capability to wearables, probably more than what you see now," he said. "We can make them much more connected." As mentioned earlier, there was a BMX stunt bike at the show equipped with Intel’s tiny Curie module to record data like bike spin, airtime and maximum height. But imagine if the cyclist was also sporting a wearable that measured heartrate, or a pair of smart goggles that told him how fast he was going. You could potentially combine all of that information, said Krzanich, and get some really interesting data on your performance. "It’s not just for athletes; you and I could use it too," he said. "There’s no reason [for example] we can’t transfer this same technology to your wristband or your golf club. And suddenly you’re an intelligent golfer."
"Here’s one of our newest employees," he said suddenly. We were standing on the ground floor of Moscone West in San Francisco when he smiled and gestured toward a yellow Labrador, who was wearing a guide dog bib. "We’re going to start working to build dog collars to help people understand how to better train guide dogs," he explained. It was a brief insight into how Intel is looking into integrating its tech beyond just the usual wearable, although Krzanich was also quick to show off already-announced items like the Recon Jet and Mica bracelet.
Krzanich was also keen to show off the capabilities of Intel’s RealSense, another passion project within the company. More than just a camera, RealSense aims to mimic the human eye, especially in terms of its depth perception. This, Krzanich said, makes interacting with technology much more natural and immersive. "Most cameras see in two dimensions. Ours see in three. It’s multilayered and much, much richer," he said. Imagine waving your hand over a vending machine to select what you want or a video game racing rig that knows where your gaze lands so the view of the cockpit moves with you.
Indeed, the most futuristic part of the IDF show floor was an area dedicated to RealSense. There were robot butlers that were smart enough to navigate rooms, 3D scanners that could scan your body and then send it to a 3D printer, depth-sensing drones that knew not to fly into trees and magical mirrors that let you virtually try on clothes. And, as was announced earlier this week, a smartphone integrated with Google’s Project Tango that puts the power of 3D scanning in your pocket.
While Intel’s interest in wearables is much more immediate, its investment in RealSense is a bet on the future — a sign that the company plans to cover as many bases as it can. When asked to sum up Intel’s overall direction, Krzanich was ambitious: "You’ll see Intel in every kind of device. From mirrors, to drones, to PCs and datacenters." And, yes, even spider robots.
Photos by Roberto Baldwin
Tags: briankrzanich, idf2015, intel