“1995 was the last big moment in technology,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich claimed at the start of his CES keynote, before adding that he believes 2015 will be the next: “The last time we’ve seen a wave of change this big was exactly 20 years ago today… We’re going from a two dimensional world to a three dimensional world. This additional dimension will change how we experience computing.” Krzanich followed this assertion by throwing down one cool-as-hell innovation after another during a demo-packed hour, which The Verge described as “among the best” of the entire event.
RealSense was the first of Krzanich’s showcases. Through an on-stage cookery demonstration, he depicted how consumers can bring a recipe up onto their laptop screen simply by gesturing to the RealSense camera – its depth sensing technology means that the keyboard and mouse pad remain free of sticky chef’s fingers. Another nifty RealSense demo included an individual playing the piano without actually touching a single key.
The practical applications of RealSense are, it would seem, limitless. Intel has partnered with ADT to incorporate RealSense into home security systems, using phone and face authentication for home alarms. Once the resident has been authenticated, their front door unlocks automatically; although the door didn’t immediately cooperate during this particular demonstration!
“Robots today can improve our lives at home and at work,” says Krzanich. He welcomed a representative of Intel partner iRobot onto the stage – after a fashion. The spokesperson addressed Krzanich and the audience via a screen atop a fully mobile robot which showed off remarkable manoeuvrability and awareness of its surroundings. Intel is equipping drones with RealSense technology to grant them this same ability to see, think, and adapt to their environment, enabling them to travel without being controlled, and reducing the risk of collisions.
“These drones can avoid obstacles, and the fact is, the real world is filled with all kinds of obstacles,” says Krzanich. “So we decided to build one, here at CES, to see if one of our drones can navigate through it.” The obstacle course, playfully dubbed ‘Game of Drones’, consisted of a wide range of vertical and horizontal impediments. The person controlling the drone simply instructed it to travel from Point A to Point B, then the drone was left to navigate the various obstacles between those points independently, responding to its surroundings and moving in order to avoid collisions. At the end of the obstacle course, Krzanich placed a set of doors, preventing the drone from reaching its destination. Once the doors were opened, the drone sensed this, and resumed its journey.
Tapping The Full Potential Of Wearables
One of the most immediate benefits of wearable technology, Krzanich believes, is helping the visually impaired. Intel have adapted their RealSense tech into a series of wearable sensors, which alert the users through a series of vibrations as to whether they are being approached from the front, left, right, or behind.
Krzanich saved a key Intel reveal, however, for near the end of his keynote: “We knew we could make computers even smaller. And I have to tell you, we’ve done it. We’ve made them so small, they’re like the button on this jacket.” He then removed a button from his jacket, announcing that it is, in fact, the Curie, which he calls “the next generation in computing”.
The Curie appears to be an evolution of the postage stamp-sized Edison premiered by Krzanich at CES last year. It includes a Quark SOC, low-energy Bluetooth radio, motion sensors, and runs on a coin-sized battery. According to Rachel Metz at MIT Technology Review, the Curie’s miniature scale is much more than a simple novelty, as it “points to the unwelcome size of many existing smart watches and smart glasses.”
While Intel is working closely with eyewear leader Luxottica to make its smart glasses offering more stylish, the Curie offers a multitude of alternative forms. “It’s meant to be a platform and will deliver wearables in a range of new form factors,” explains Krzanich. “Rings, bags, pendants and even buttons… This changes the game of wearables.”