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Intel's five (not very) big announcements from IDF this week

James Niccolai | Aug. 20, 2015
New chips took a backseat to robots and 3D cameras

RealSense smartphone

If you’ve paid any attention to Intel’s developer event in San Francisco this week, you’ve probably gathered already that there’s almost no chip news at the show. Intel has moved up the food chain, so to speak, and is showing developers what they can build with its technologies rather than focusing on new components.

It makes sense, since with PCs on the wane Intel needs developers to get creative with its products. It can no longer flash a faster Core i7 chip and expect them to go do something interesting with it, because PCs nowadays just aren’t that interesting. Instead, it needs to show them what else they can do with its latest chips.

So we’ve been hearing a lot about robots, depth-sensing cameras, smart vending machines and bracelets that log you into your PC. It’s important stuff for Intel, and entertaining to watch a sensor-equipped BMX bike jump over the head of CEO Brian Krzanich. But there’s not a ton of big news we hadn’t heard about before.

Still, here are 5 of the most interesting things announced so far, and since we’re already halfway through IDF there probably won’t be much else.

SmartSound and Wake on Voice
Intel didn’t talk much about its upcoming Skylake desktop CPUs this week, but it did reveal that the chip has an integrated DSP used for a feature called Intel Smartsound, whch will allow computers to listen out for audio signals without using up too much power.

It worked with Microsoft to build an upcoming technology for Windows 10 called Wake on Voice, which will let you walk up to a Windows 10 in sleep mode and bring it to life by saying “Hey Cortana.” Some smartphones already have this always-listening feature, but it’s not available yet on a  PC.

The catch is, we’re told Wake on Voice won’t arrive with the first Skylake chips, which means it won’t be supported in the first wave of Windows 10 PCs.

Button-sized Curie chip coming in Q4
OK, there was a little bit of chip news. Curie is Intel’s tiny system-on-chip for wearables. Unveiled at CES earlier this year, it's as big as a fingernail and includes a Quark microprocessor, Bluetooth radio, accelerometer and gyroscope.

Intel announced this week that "select” hardware makers will get their hands on Curie to build products in the fourth quarter. Regular developers will get it too at the Maker Faire in Rome, Krzanich said, which takes place in October.

As well as rings, bracelets and fitness trackers, Curie can be embedded in just about anything. Intel showed how you can track the speed and position of a BMX bike that apparently had Curie chips on its handlebars and saddle. It also released some new SDKs, including one called Identity IQ, which can authenticate a wearer's identity. That could eventually let you unlock your PC using a smart bracelet, as Krzanich demonstrated in his keynote.

 

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