It’s not often they let the Intel engineers out into the sunlight, most of the time they’re kept locked in dark dungeons slaving away on stuff which we may see in a few years time. But this week the unthinkable happened, and the might chip maker decided to show off some of the cool stuff they’re working on, and we were invited along to have a play and video. It was rather neat.
First up was a first look at the Intel Edison computer on a postage stamp, which is a pretty amazing bit of technology. The whole system is around the size of an SD card, and includes a 500 MHz dual core Atom processor, 1 GB of DDR RAM, 4 GB of EMMC data storage, a Bluetooth and WiFi chip and antenna, plus an Arduino compatible I/O port which is there to delight the hobbyist crowd as well as professional OEM manufacturers.
Basically this little gizmo has more computing power on that little board than a mainframe computer of 40 years ago. Amazing. We’re expecting to see this product embedded in a bunch of cool products in the future like robots, wearable computers etc, as well as maker projects from hobby enthusiasts and so on. There’s still no word on price, but the board looks pretty ready to go, so we should see a release any time now.
Danew Dual boot Windows/Android Tablet
One of the surprises of the show was the look at this cool little dual boot tablet computers. The Danew (also available under other brand names around the world) is a 10.1 inch tablet computer, running an Intel Atom 1.8GHz CPU with 2 GB RAM and 32 GB of on-board storage which lets you switch instantly (well within 30 seconds) between Android 4.2 and Windows 8.1. It’s designed to be the perfect compromise for those who need a Windows machine for work, but prefer the games and apps available on Android for other day to day use.
As you’ll see from the video below, it comes with a really cool Bluetooth keyboard accessory, which turns it into a combo Windows laptop and Android tablet, and all at a price of around €300 ($410). Very nice product.
Our favorite bit of tech during the show was definitely this very clever imaging/sensor system, called Intel RealSense, which goes way beyond the Microsoft Kinect and let’s you control your computer by simply waving your fingers. What makes it special is the fact that it can isolate each finger, unlike the Kinect which only sees your hand, which means you can do a lot more sensitive movements with the tech.
For example, the engineers in Intel’s Paris location have set up the system to let someone play a virtual harp using their fingers, as you would do with a normal harp. We can see this really taking off with game developers and specialist application makers, once the camera accessories start to filter through to the stores. Nice to see the camera built into an Asus laptop too.
The other clever thing about the technology is the fact that it can sense ‘depth’ as well, which means you can have clever holographic type applications such as the one in the video, which lets you do all kinds of Minority Report type stuff with your hands and the ‘floating’ screen.
Car Of The Future
This centrepiece demo of the show was a huge mockup of what the Intel folk were calling ‘the caring car of the future‘. It seems that the vehicles of 2025 or whatever will feature sensors and components which lock into our physical and emotional state, in order to make sure we don’t harm ourselves (or presumably others) while we’re driving around in our connected computers on wheels. Speaking of which we were astounded to learn that current cars have around 180 computers built into their systems, which is ridiculous when you think about it.
The demo was more of an imaginary walk through, than a demonstration of any hard core technology, but it’s easy to see how the engineers are thinking about adding more intelligence to cars in the future, and as we know from our own automatic parking systems test, this stuff is real and it works and it’s already here. So the future is likely to be even more astonishing.
Intel 2 in 1 Education Computer
We also got our first hands on with the brand new Intel 2 in 1 Education convertible tablet/laptop combo, which is a ruggedised and very cool portable computing device which is designed, as the name suggests, for education. It’s actually a delicious combination of 1.3GHz dual core Atom laptop computer, and tablet, since the two parts split to give the student a choice of usage modes.
It is also ruggedised, so it will survive the usual school type knocks and one of the interesting things is it is being offered with an optional solar panel charging system, which can directly charge the unit from a panel without having to use a battery intermediary for voltage stabilization. Great for the developing world. We really liked the little box, it’s good enough that we reckon people will be pretending to study so they can qualify to buy one.
We had a great time at the show, not least because it’s always great to get to talk to the actual engineers who know their stuff, rather than have to go through sales and marketing staff who although enthusiastic may not have all the bits and bobs down as they should. Intel of course is famous for its engineering skills, so it will be interesting to see how much of the really futuristic stuff like floating displays and the depth sensing technology makes it out into the market successfully.