If there was one big takeaway from last night’s keynote, it’s that Intel knows how to put on a show. CEO Brian Krzanich, clad in casual sweater-and-jeans attire, ruled the stage, dragging out partners and celebrities to join him in showing off Intel-integrated products from the company’s new tech initiatives. He claimed Intel is helping to usher in a “new era of consumer technology” in the form of “experiences” rather than products, and there are three areas in which Intel is working to improve consumer experiences: sports and gaming, health and creativity.
Sports and Gaming
Probably the most underwhelming of Intel’s presentations, Krzanich underscored Intel’s commitment to gamers with a new line of improved processors “expressly designed for more performance and sensation,” although no details or specifications were provided. He then paraded CLGaming’s Miss Harvey, sponsored by Intel, onto the stage to demonstrate a new 6th generation Intel processor’s capabilities by playing “Rainbow Six Siege” for about thirty seconds, commentating how perfect the gameplay looked with no performance loss. The demonstration showed me nothing my current 5th gen i7 doesn’t already do, but it did show off a fun new Razer brand webcam that senses the subject’s background and removes it, no green screen required, using Intel’s 3D mapping RealSense technology. With no wearables for gamers and a handful of essentially useless, gimmicky software, Intel’s proclamation of their dedication to gaming fell horrendously flat.
In the realm of sports, Intel fared only slightly better, showcasing their Curie processor’s capabilities with extreme athletes. Two BMX bikers had their bikes equipped with Curie wearables to measure their speed, height and other statistics while they performed tricks on ramps wheeled onto stage. Krzanich introduced their partnership with Red Bull Media House with a parkour demonstration in which the athlete was wearing the device on his body. It measured how forceful his leaps were, the distance he stayed in the air and his overall speed, among other things. This application of the Curie processor seemed better suited to fitness applications rather than the superfluous display of a biker’s hangtime. Intel also announced a partnership with 3D mapping software company Free-D for sports broadcasts, allowing spectators to pause and view replays in a 3-dimensional space rather than whatever angle the camera provides.
Intel’s final presentation in sports and gaming debuted the Yuneec Typhoon H drone which uses Intel’s RealSense technology to avoid obstacles and follow paths, all without user intervention. Their demonstration showed a bicyclist weaving through trees led by the drone, which was filming the cyclist with its 4K camera in “lead mode.” The cyclist then turned around, and the drone automatically swapped into “follow mode,” following the cyclist along the same path, avoiding a “falling tree” obstacle in realtime. This drone from Yuneec will be available for under $2,000 later this year.
Health and Fitness
For their health and fitness presentation, Intel began with a demo video of the Radar Pace: a pair of smart sunglasses for fitness developed by Oakley using what we can only assume is Intel’s Curie processor (they never specified exactly what Intel had to do with the glasses). The Radar Pace is voice-activated and utilized, no swiping or button-pressing needed, and measures the wearer’s heart rate, breathing and exertion, adapting the workout to the wearer’s physical responses. Krzanich was clear to explain the Radar Pace doesn’t just gather data but interprets it and responds in realtime to customize the experience for the wearer. The Radar Pace will launch late this year, but no price was announced.
New Balance was the next partnership announced with Intel, both companies announcing joint smartwatch and 3D-printed running shoes products. Neither product was especially elaborated upon, the presentation centering mostly around New Balance’s announcement of a “Digital Sports” division that will utilize Intel technology to develop wearable athletic tech. Both Krzanich and New Balance CEO Rob Demartini wore the 3D-printed running shoes on stage, but neither acknowledged whether or not these designs would be brought to the general consumer.
Finally, the Daqri Smart Helmet took the stage, a hard hat with a work safety focus and high tech features that shipped yesterday to Daqri’s Tier 1 partners. Inside the helmet is an Intel M7 processor, powering its camera and thermal vision sensor that allows the wearer to identify temperature-related issues at work. The software in the helmet helps to identify other work safety hazards, guiding the wearer through the process of fixing or avoiding them. While fascinating, the augmented reality feature felt incredibly condescending, telling the wearer how to do what is presumably their job with very basic, step-by-step instructions. It will be interesting to see what kind of applications this has for construction, as the only demonstration shown was for water systems operators.
Where sports and gaming was underwhelming, the “creativity” portion of Intel’s keynote was the most outrageous. The Curie bracelet made another showing with Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman using it to make “gesture music” that they claimed could “change the way we compose music.” I’m a little skeptical about someone wearing a futuristic bangle waving their hands in the air suddenly becoming the next Mozart, but both Rahman and Krzanich seemed convinced of the bracelet’s creative power. After an awkward jam session, Rahman gave the stage to a video of Lady Gaga announcing an undisclosed project in collaboration with Intel.
The next weird thing to hit the stage was a collaboration with Segway to design a new personal transporter with no handlebars, but the real surprise was that the “personal transporter” was also a small robot who unfolded before our very eyes. Its handler requested it perform different tasks, like greeting someone at the door and guiding them into a staged living room. It does have a speech module, but how developed that is was unclear (but it has detachable arms, so that’s pretty cool). The Ninebot Segway will be available to developers in the second half of 2016.
Chromat CEO and designer, Becca McCharen, joined Krzanich on stage after the Ninebot rolled off to discuss her vision for tech-integrated fashion. A small fashion “show” occurred where two models wearing new Chromat designs walked onto stage, one wearing the Adrenaline Dress which senses when the wearer feels excited and expands a 3D-printed structure on the dress’ back into an hourglass shape, the other wearing the Aeros sports bra, in which a Curie processor senses the body heat of the wearer and opens vents to allow cooling to occur so its wearer does not overheat during their workout. Chromat will be showing off these and other designs at New York Fashion Week in February.
The final product announcement in Intel’s creative sphere was the reality show “America’s Greatest Makers” which pits independent inventors against one another in competition to find out who has the “best” invention. What followed this announcement was a lot of reality show babble with absolutely no substance and no real input from Intel, other than its investment. The show will premiere this spring on TBS.
Intel closed their keynote with a call to action for more diversity in the tech industry and more awareness of conflict minerals in mining hubs like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, announcing its own successes in diversity hiring and conflict-free products. Krzanich ended the presentation with his request that we “celebrate the possible” and gave the stage to A.R. Rahman and a band of gesture musicians who performed a disjointed, awkward composition, holding the audience captive while we livestreamers were able to close the browser window. Overall, Intel’s keynote presented a lot of information in a relatively short time but provided little of substance in the way of new announcements, Curie having been announced last year and RealSense tech not being a secret whatsoever. We can, however, look forward to owning our own Curie processor for less than $10 this financial quarter.
Did you watch the keynote? What were you hoping to see from Intel at this year’s CES? Let us know in the comments!