Ultra-thin tablets and 2-in-1 PCs, depth sensing cameras and wire-free computing at Intel Developer Forum

Intel demoed a 6mm-thick tablet with depth sensing cameras, new fanless 2 in 1 PCs, wireless charging and a tiny form factor board aimed at hobbyists during the IDF keynote.

Intel revealed how it plans to transform the PC and mobile devices market over the coming years by introducing wireless charging, fanless 2 in 1 machines and wearables.

Brian Krzanich, Intel CEO, set out the company's vision at the Intel IDF keynote in San Francisco today.

In it he laid out how the firm planned to put its processors inside more than 50 billion devices by 2020 spanning wearables, tablets, PCs and phones.

PCs and tablets

Intel's general manager of the PC Client Group Kirk Skaugen said Intel is planning technology that will reshape PC and mobile devices.

"We envision a world where in the next few years we will eliminate wires, passwords and just have face and other biometrics to access websites and your computer, together with 3D gesture, touch and voice recognition-based UI," he said.

The 2 in 1 PC is one of the fastest growing categories in mobile computing he said, with the introduction of the Intel Core M processor allowing fanless 2 in 1 PCs to be created, which will ship this year.

Intel revealed eight 2 in 1 PC devices that will be available from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Wistron. Intel-based fanless tablets, standalone and 2-in-1s, will be thinner than the highest performance tablets in the world today and offer three times the performance and twice the graphics claimed Skaugen.

Krzanich said the firm is "on target" to have 40 million tablets shipped with Intel processors inside and that its processors were the second most popular choice for tablets shipped in the second quarter of this year.

One of these ultra-thin tablets was on show at IDF, the Dell Venue 8 7000 series tablet. The 6mm thick tablet – one of the thinnest in the world according to Michael Dell - has a 2K resolution, 8.4-inch OLED screen and will be available from early November.

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The Dell Venue 8 7000 series. Image: Intel

The tablet also features the Intel RealSense Snapshot depth-sensing device. RealSense is composed of multiple cameras that records depth information when a photo is taken.

That information can be used for various purposes – an on-stage demo showed the focus being changed from the foreground to background in a picture, the measurements of a sofa being accurately extracted from a photo and the colour of objects being altered at different depths within the scene.

Intel has also made a RealSense SDK for developers to take advantage of the capabilities of the depth sensing camera, together with an Intel Context Sensing SDK that provides tools for easily manipulating data from sensors such as accelerometers, compasses, gyroscopes and GPS.

The chipmaker has also created a seven inch Intel Baytrail-based tablet that will act reference platform for Android, which will be available by the end of the year, and will "accelerate our ability to get these devices onto market", said Skaugen.

Helping to realise Intel's ambition for a wireless device will be Rezence wireless charging platform. The technology was demonstrated wirelessly charging a 2 in 1 PC and other devices devices sat on a wooden table.

Attached to the underside of the table was a board emitting the charge, while each device had a small board fitted inside the case picking it up.

Skaugen said the wireless charging receiver could be retrofitted to existing PCs, tablets and other devices to add the charging ability. The technology can be combined with wireless gigabit data connections to realise a completely wireless device able to connect to screens, keyboards and other peripherals without cables, he said.

He raised the possibility of the technology being fitted to the underside of tables in cafes or to airplane tray tables.

The Rezence wireless charging technology will be available in the first quarter of 2015. Intel is partnering with multiple companies, including Emirates airlines, materials firm DuPont, HP and Rohm Semiconductor to work on Rezence.

Wearables

For wearables Intel is partnering with various companies to produce devices ranging from headphones to bracelets.

Krzanich demonstrated the BioSpot in-ear headphones that Intel has produced in partnership with SMS Audio. The headphones are able to measure the wearer's heartrate and other data and speak that information into the user's ears.

Another wearable referenced by Krzanich was the bracelet it has produced with OpenCeremony that can link to a cell phone and display text information such as SMS messages and email.

"We partnered with a third party company to build the best product we could," said Krzanich.

To produce a smart watch the chipmaker has also partnered with the watchmaker Fossil Group.

Intel is also launching an Analytics for Wearables developer programme, which will provide software tools for carrying out analytics on big datasets and that can leverage Cloudera's distribution of Hadoop, the distributed processing and storage framework.

Next generation chips – Skylake

Skaugen also revealed details about Intel's next generation CPU architecture, codenamed Skylake.

The next architecture, which will be based on a 14nm manufacturing process, will be out in desktops, notebooks and 2 in 1 PCs in 2015, he said.

The chip should be capable of running 4K video and high resolution 3D graphics, he said.

On the comms side Skaugen said that more devices are shipping with Intel chips providing LTE connectivity.

He announced that the Samsung Galaxy Alpha phones will be shipping with the Intel XMM 7260 chipset and be available across the world by the end of this year.

Makers

Intel is also hoping to capitalise on the hobbyists and maker market currently served by single board computers and microcontrollers, such as the Raspberry Pi and Arduino.

Intel Edison is a dual-core system on a chip with connectivity and comms built in and support for expansion boards to add features such as USB connectivity and full Arduino capability.

The board is available now, expected to sell for $50 and will be available in 65 countries.

"We hope to see explosion of innovation around this product. It has everything a person needs and expansion capability to build just about anything you can think of," said Krzanich.

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The Intel Edison board is only slightly larger than a postage stamp. Image: Intel

Internet of Things

Intel expects the overall market for Internet of Things-related devices to grow at about 17 percent annually until 2020.

The company has partnered with various firms centered around IoT. Krzanich referenced Intel's work with air conditioner maker Daikin to fit units with sensors that detect which units need maintenance and "save millions" on unnecessary call-outs by detecting faults before they become an issue.

For Internet of Things adoption to take off the various devices collecting data need to be interoperable, both with each other and the back end infrastructure analysing data, he said. To drive that interoperability Intel has put together two consortia to develop standards for data formats and communication protocols, the Open Interconnect Consortium and the Industrial Internet Consortium.

"We can't think of all of the applications and opportunities that are out there. We want to build products that enable you to build something great," Krzanich said to developers in the audience.

Data centres

Diane Bryant, general manager of the Data Center Group, discussed Intel's plans for the back-end infrastructure that support the one trillion tranasactions per day smartphones and other devices generate each day.

The number of interactions is expected to grow with the advent of wearable devices, with wearables expected to drive half of interactions between applications and the back end by 2017, she said.

Intel is partnering with various charities to create computing platforms aimed at tackling health challenges, such as working with the Knights' Cancer Institute at Oregon Health and Science University to create a Genomics Research Cloud. 

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