Intel's CES Keynote Revealed a New Twist to Hands-Free Computing, 3D Depth Cameras and a Surprising Social Message
A year ago at CES, Intel's keynote theme was "A Game Changing Year Ahead." Their keynote was deadly focused on delivering the new hybrid notebook-tablet category or convertible Ultrabook that would breathe new life into the personal computer. Did Intel succeed in making it a game changing year? No. But they were successful in stopping the ship from sinking and may eventually stabilize the PC sector in 2014 in as far as notebooks are concerned. A new report published by Gartner just yesterday stated that while the PC market was "Driven by an uptake in Windows ultramobiles, the PC market is estimated to remain relatively flat in 2014, after a decline of 9.9 percent in 2013. The Gartner consumer survey showed that less than eight per cent of users would replace their laptop with a tablet, while a transfer to an Ultrabook is almost twice this figure." As CES began this week, Intel's new CEO Brian Krzanich was on stage to kick-off a series of keynotes at CES 2014. It was a quieter and less ambitious keynote which may indicate that Intel's bigger revelations for the year may be reserved for future keynotes such as those scheduled for Intel's Developer Forums (IDF) or other key industry events throughout the year. For now, Intel's Krzanich revealed a move into wearable computers with a smart earbuds system and a new headset device debuting this year that will allow your smart devices to be operated in a hands-free fashion by tapping into digital assistants like Apple's Siri. Krzanich ended Intel's keynote with a surprising social message about conflict materials.
Intel's Surprising New Earbud & Headset Systems
Intel began their keynote by demonstrating one of two new wearable computer products. The first was simply called "smart earbuds." Intel built a heart rate monitor right into the earbuds which will put an end to the traditional "strap" styled monitor that many are used to, like the one from Polar. The power for the heart rate monitor comes from the earbud jack.
Runners will really appreciate this development if it proves to provide accurate heart rate statistics that are reliable. Only time will tell if this is a potential market winner or just a marketing gimmick for a little keynote glitter.
The second wearable computer was a headset that Intel is calling "Jarvis." The heart of the system has a Siri-like component to it so that users can simply interact with it at any time to answer their phone, make a reservation at a restaurant or other task by simply talking aloud by starting your request with "Hello Jarvis."
According to Intel, it's hands-free, it's always listening, and it provides seamless integration. There's no need to press the Home Button of your device such as an iPhone as it's designed to be hands free. You simply talk to your digital assistant Jarvis. It works with your phone, your calendar and understands conversational context and much more.
Audibly speaking, Jarvis has a "Laura Croft" type of English accent when answering your requests. The interaction demonstration with Jarvis, perfectly rehearsed by Intel, illustrated a very complex interchange with the Intel representative ("Larry) regarding a dinner reservation as follows:
Larry: Hello Jarvis. I'd like to have a nice dinner. Find me a good Indian restaurant around here.
Jarvis: The best one around here is Mount Everest Indian Cuisine which is located on Sahara Avenue, 13 minute drive from here. Would you like to go there now?
Larry: Not yet. I'd like to be there at 8PM.
Jarvis: It conflicts with your day one Summary Meeting. Would you still like to go to the restaurant and notify Dianna that you're not coming?
Larry: Yes, please do.
Jarvis: Sure. I've notified Dianna and I'll let you know when it's time for you to leave for the restaurant. By the way, you have three new messages from your wife. Would you like me to read them to you, now?
Larry: Not now. But please remind me after I leave here.
Jarvis: Sure. I'll remind you later.
In some ways it reminded me of the movie called 2001 a Space Odyssey, where beginning a conversation with the ship's computer began with: Hello HAL.
At the end of the first demonstration, Krzanich stated that Jarvis would work with any digital assistant. That could very well mean Apple's Siri, Google's Now or Microsoft's Cortana (a name of a futuristic digital assistant found in their Halo video game franchise).
Will Apple introduce their own version of this type of wearable computer – or will Jarvis be the one to look for in 2014? For the record, Apple was granted a patent this month for an embedded heart rate monitor for the iPhone and/or accessory. Additionally and more importantly, a new patent application published by the US Patent Office last month revealed Siri on an iPhone focused on communicating with "another device" or a "secondary device" such as a consumer electronic device, a network appliance and so forth.
Intel Video: Make it Wearable
White Hat Intel: Free Security Software for Mobile Devices
Security was next on Krzanich's agenda which in many ways was to promote McAfee, a wholly owned subsidiary of Intel since February 2011. Intel is planning to offer free internet security software for mobile devices using any architecture later this year. Count on Intel to later add a pay-for Pro upgrade, but for now they get to where the white hat for making McAfee software available for free.
Intel's move is much like Microsoft's free offer of "Security Essentials" for Wintel PC's which works just fine for the vast majority of users. It's a good offensive move for Intel in their efforts to challenge ARM over the next few years. A second part of Intel's war against ARM was discussed later in Krzanich's keynote.
Shaping the Way we Work: Tablets
Krzanich's next topic was tablets. "Typically in the past tablets were thought of as consumption, games, watching movies and we're starting to see them come into the workplace more and more." At the end of 2013 Applebee's announced that it was replacing all of its menus with tablets. That's 100,000 Intel processor "E la Carte Presto" based tablets to be specific.
Applebee's customers were no longer waiting for their waiter. Applebee's reported that table turnovers were now 20% faster because customers were able to interact with the in-store tablets to make their orders, to pay their bill when finished without needing to wait for a busy waitress. "It's resulting in a better dining experience," stated Krzanich.
The timing is interesting considering that the US Patent Office recently revealed that Apple had filed for a patent application for a restaurant ordering and reservation system for future tablets.
Interestingly, Krzanich noted that waiters are experiencing up to 15% higher tips. That's likely due to waiters being able to focus on "servicing their tables" rather than getting involved in ordering or billing processes.
Windows and Android: A Dual OS Intel Platform Officially Announced
Krzanich then transitioned his keynote to the general workplace and talked about how the new 2-in-1 hybrid notebook-tablet category is fitting into this equation. Intel was rather excited to announce their big push into bringing Android into the workplace.
One of their new initiatives deals with security in the workplace for Android called "Intel Device Protection Technology." But security for Android devices wasn't enough. The enterprise wanted and demanded more, according to Krzanich. So Intel introduced the Windows-Android dual OS platform.
Krzanich walked over to a notebook on stage and pressed one button to switch from Windows to Android in milliseconds.
In late December, NPD Group noted that "Chromebooks accounted for 21 percent of all notebook sales, up from negligible share in the prior year. Even Apple's MacBooks took a haircut this year going from 2.6% of the notebook market in 2012 down to 1.8% for 2013.
With the help of Intel, Android is about to take a huge leap in market share in 2014. Of course Microsoft will have an advantage in enterprise software by a country mile, but the door is now open for traditional PC business apps to start supporting Android.
In the end it may give Intel a leg up in the Chromebook market over those powered by Nvidia and Samsung processors. Free 64bit enterprise class security from McAfee and dual OS capabilities is a great two-step advantage for Intel OEMs and especially consumers of Intel based hardware who own Android based smartphones and tablets.
Yet Intel wanted to add one more business advantage to the mix and they did so by introducing the upcoming "RealSense" 3D depth camera.
Patently Apple first covered Intel's Breakthrough in June 2013 concerning the integration of 3D Depth cameras coming to Intel based computers in 2H 2014. Back then, Intel's wide-eyed Kirk Skaugen, Senior VP and General Manager of PC Client Group, proudly announced it this way:
"This may be something that we write about for many years to come. Very quietly, in the secret rooms at Intel, we've been investing in camera technologies. And this is what we believe will be the world's first 3D Depth camera integration. And our commitment along with multiple OEM partners is to put this into notebooks, Ultrabooks and all-in-ones by the second half of 2014."
Intel has now branded this next generation camera as "RealSense." We noted four years ago that Intel was working on 3D imagery and an application for scanning images into a device.
With the new 3D camera coming to Intel powered tablets this fall, their forecast will have been fulfilled. The scanning device will be the tablet as noted below, which will be built right into the front and backside of tablets.
Krzanich said that "it's about emersion; about getting into the experience. It opens new dimensions for business." As soon as the image was scanned into the tablet, the 3D app associated with the camera allowed the demonstrator to rotate the 3D image just taken. It was close to real-time scanning/processing of a 3D image.
The demo went on to further illustrate how an end user will be able to edit the 3D image. For example, a 3D image could be prepared for the making of a keychain product that could be printed off a future 3D printer. Intel illustrated several examples run off of a 3D printer.
With this technology, businesses will be able to craft some of their own give-away marketing/promotional materials in-house by using an Intel tablet equipped with a 3D depth camera as the initial scanner.
Coincidentally Apple was just granted a patent for a 3D modeling application yesterday and in light of Intel's revelations, it appears that Apple could be on the same track as Intel. For the app to be functional would suggest that a 3D iSight Depth camera may be in the works as well for future iDevices.
Only time will tell how far along this project actually is at present. To expedite such 3D projects, Apple acquired PrimeSense in November 2013. PrimeSense is a leader in 3D depth cameras with their technology being behind Microsoft's Kinect. Miniaturizing such a camera for an iDevice is the logical next move.
Making a Difference: The Fight Against Conflict Minerals
Krzanich's final CES keynote segment switched gears to cover a very real global issue that the technology industry as a whole has to work together on to rid itself of conflict minerals.
Krzanich's lead into this topic began as follows: "I want to talk about another way technology can lead in transformation. We make billions and billions of 14nm transistors and 22nm transistors every year. They're built in factories like the one you see behind me (see the photo above). When you begin to put these factories together from around the world, you begin to think about the impact on the supply chain and the potential issues that you could be causing. This is not an issue we would normally talk about at CES. But it's an issue that's very important and personal to me. That issue is conflict minerals." The following is from Intel's video:
"In Sub-Saharan Africa there is war that feeds off a global demand for consumer electronics. The place is the D.R.C., the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The region is Ground Zero for Conflict Minerals.
They are the motivation behind unspeakable atrocities by armed groups that use profits from mining to finance their so-called revolution.
Many competing armed groups are controlling the mineral wealth. They're controlling the transit of the minerals, with the use of mass-scale atrocities. Conflict Minerals are so valuable because they are essential to making any electronic product work, from video game consoles to computers to mobile phones.
There are these four minerals, tungsten in your screens and vibration, tantalum to send text messages. Tin is a solder to run every circuit board and gold is a connecting piece.
The suffering linked to conflict minerals can be hard to look at. The death toll in central Africa now makes it the world's bloodiest conflict since World War II.
An easy answer is to stop sourcing these conflict minerals from the region.
But is there something more we can all do – to change the conditions for the local people?"
Intel's CEO Brian Krzanich returned to the stage after the video presentation stating "And that's the challenge we took over four years ago. The solution isn't easy. But nothing worthwhile ever is.
The minerals are important. Our industry relies on them. But it's not as critical as the lives people mining them. We knew we couldn't do it alone. So over the last four years we've worked with our industry, governments around the world and groups like "Enough!" to transform the issue. We tracked these minerals from the mine to the smelter to our factories. I'm here tonight to tell you that the years of work have paid off.
Tonight, I'm excited to announce that every Intel processor we manufacture in 2014 will be conflict-free." That concluded the main themes of Intel's 2014 CES Keynote.
Apple's Sourcing Conflict-Free Materials
In the bigger picture, Apple is another technology industry leader working against the use of conflict-materials. In one of Apple's published documents about supplier responsibility, we read under "Labor and Human Rights" that "Apple is committed to using conflict-free minerals, and we've joined the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade, a joint initiative among governments, companies, and civil society to support supply chain solutions to conflict minerals challenges in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
As one of the first electronics companies to map its supply chain for conflict minerals, we actively survey suppliers to confirm their smelter sources. As of December 2012, we have identified 211 smelters and refiners from which our suppliers source tin, tantalum, tungsten, or gold.
Apple suppliers are using conflict-free sources of tantalum, are certifying their tantalum smelters, or are transitioning their sourcing to already certified tantalum smelters. We will continue to work to certify qualified smelters, and we'll require our suppliers to move their sourcing of tin, tungsten, and gold to certified conflict-free sources as smelters become certified.
In an industrywide effort to help suppliers source conflict-free materials, we continue to align our program with Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) guidelines, and we are working with the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI). The primary focus of the EICC and GeSI Conflict-Free Smelter programs is to certify qualified smelters as conflict-free through an independent third-party audit process."
Apple notes in their document that the problem may actually go beyond the Democratic Republic of Congo. Apple notes that "Bangka Island, Indonesia, is one of the world's principal tin-producing regions. Recent concerns about the illegal mining of tin from this region prompted Apple to lead a fact-finding visit to learn more. Using the information we've gathered, Apple initiated an EICC working group focused on this issue, and we are helping to fund a new study on mining in the region so we can better understand the situation."
The technology industry as a whole is going all-out to end the use of conflict materials and it's great to see the commitments from the likes of Apple and Intel to produce products that use conflict-free materials.
While it'll take a little more time to flush this problem out of the industry, moves like the one announced at CES by Intel to ship all of their 2014 microprocessors using conflict-free materials is a great step towards ending the atrocities in sub-saharan Africa. This is definitely news that we can all applaud.
At the end of the Day
At the end of the day, Intel's CES keynote delivered by CEO Brian Krzanich was much more subdued than keynotes of the past. There was no singular grand vision, just a simple peek into what Intel could actually deliver this year.
Intel is slowly moving into wearable computers, though whether these devices will actually carry the Intel brand or be licensable is unknown at this time. Secondly, Intel will be delivering the world's first 3D depth camera called RealSense by yearend that will work their way into various branded Ultrabooks (the 2 for 1 notebook-tablet form factor) and standalone tablets.
Yet the move that will likely have the most impact on the market this year and going forward is Intel's new Dual OS Platform that will offer Windows + Android on Intel computers later this year which will allow consumers to switch operating systems with just the touch of a button.
And in the end, Intel's revelation that all of their 2014 processors will use conflict- free materials is one that we can all agree is monumental in the fight against evil regimes around the world including the largest in the Republic of Congo which is anything but "Democratic." On that note, we all cheer Intel and others working to stop the bloodshed over conflict minerals.
Additional Intel Information from CES