Intel Demos Room-Mapping Robots, Holographic Displays

SAN FRANCISCO -- Get ready for a new breed of robot, connected dirtbikes and holographic images that deliver feedback. At Intel's Developer Forum key note address, the chipmaker's CEO Brian Krzanich highlighted a bevy of new devices and experiences made possible by the company's latest technological advances.

Krzanich took the stage and welcomed the crowd, saying "this is about you, our developers and the amazing experiences that you make possible." Krzanich then cited a digital pinball game and a electronic mouse trap contraption that the company had shown before he got on stage as examples of innovations which are powered by Intel technology.

After showing a video of developers talking about various toys and other connected objects, Krzanich said that there are three assumptions driving the company's innovations.

  • Sensification -- the application of additional ways of interacting with computers such as natural language and gestures
  • Smart and Connected -- connecting everything to the cloud
  • Extension of you -- wearables and other devices that make it a part of each person


Talking about sensification, he said that a "voice controlled experience shouldn't start by pushing a button" and that "talking to a device should feel like a two-way conversation." He then announced Intel Smart Sound technology and its "wake-on-voice" feature, which allows it to listen for a command, even when in deep sleep. He invited a demo guy named Craig on stage, who showed how a notebook with an Intel 6th Generation Core processor could wake up from sleep (screen off) when he said "Hey Cortana." Krzanich said that wake-on-voice works whether commands are processed locally or in the cloud and that it would be available on all upcoming Intel chips, from Atom on the low end to Core i7 on the high-end.

Krzanich then showed how Intel and Google are working to reduce audio latency in Google. He opened a music keyboard application on an Android tablet and showed how sound didn't come out immediately when he hit a key. However, with Intel's new technology, the tablet emitting sound came out immediately.

He then talked about Intel's RealSense camera technology. He took out a smartphone reference design with RealSense and explained how its camera can 3D scan objects. Demo guy Craig came on stage to show how RealSense, in concert with Google's Project Tango, could help scan parts of a room to help build a virtual world. "I truly believe that usages of this are relatively endless," Krzanich said.

Krzanich then explained how RealSense cameras can power robots. He showed a video of a robot that performs room service at a hotel, bringing tooth brushes to guests. In the video, the robot's developer explained that RealSense cameras allow it to navigate around the environment, without bumping into people. The robot then came on stage and brought Intel's CEO a Diet Coke.  

Intel's CEO said that robots have "always had eyes" but that RealSense provides a cost-effective way for them to make 3D maps of their environment and avoid obstacles. He then announced that RealSense will now support a variety of operating systems including the robot operating system ROSS, Mac OS X, Unity 3D and several others.

Talking about sensification in gaming, Krzanich showed a game developer named Chad playing a racing game with a steering wheel and three giant monitors in front of him. A RealSense camera captured Chad's head movements and adjusted the first-person perspective based on eye location.

A representative named Uri from Razer came on stage and showed off a RealSense powered-camera from his company that's designed to broadcast gamers in real-time to Twitch. Krzanich said that Razer's camera would be available in the near future. 

Smart and Connected

"Think about rooms that know you're there and how many people are there," Krzanich said, switching the conversation to connected devices. He then called an Intel rep named Marci on stage, who demonstrated how a connected mirror would allow her to try on a jacket and change the color of the clothing in the reflection just by hitting a mirror. She then shared the captured the image with people on a social network. The Memomi Memory Mirror is out today and in a couple of Nieman Marcus stores, according to Krzanich.

Marci came back on stage with her young daughter in a car seat to show a clip with sensors that prevents parents from accidentally leaving their kids in the back seat when they leave the car. She showed how the Baby Seat Clip from Nabi pairs with a smartphone to alert people when they walk too far away from the child, potentially leaving them in harm's way.

Krzanich then called Craig back on stage to demonstrate a connected vending machine. The demo guy explained that the vending machine was able to gather demographic data such as his age, via its camera. He also said the machine uses RealSense cameras to allow you to buy snacks using gestures, so you can buy something without touching the buttons on the screen, and potentially getting germs on your hands. Craig said N&W, the company behind the machine, will be putting 5,000 of them out in the near future.

Intel's CEO then said that his company is building 5G networks and modems to help get all these new connected devices online from anywhere.

"It makes sense for things to be smart and connected, because they see you, they hear you, they're part of you," he said.

An Extension of You

"As everything becomes smart and connected, it becomes an extension of you," Krzanich said switching the topic to ewarables. He then called an executive from Fossil,Greg McKelvey, on stage, because Intel and Fossil announced a partnership at last year's IDF. McKelvey talked about how his designers put fashion and usability first and technology second. 

The Fossil executive gave the audience a quick look at a new line of products, a connected bracelet and a new Android Wear watch, with a round, metal body reminiscent of the Moto 360. This will be the first time Fossil has released an Android Wear device.

Krzanich then talked about the company's tiny Curie module, which is a tiny chip with sensors and a Quark processor. He then brought two demo guys named Tyler and Wesley to show a BMX bike with Curie-powered sensors that sit on the handlebar and body. As Wesley moved the handle bars, rocked the bike and performed some tricks, a computer screenshowd a 3D model of the bike mimicking his movements, along with stats for the spin, air time, flip and speed of his trick. Wesley then jumped over Krzanich on his bike to fire the audience up.

"You can imagine all of the sports that can be digitized," Krzanich said. He talked about how Curie sensors could "revolutionize sports" by helping athletes train and audiences better visualize their movements. He said that he expects partners to get Curie sensors by the end of the year.

He then talked about one of the company's new SDKs for wearables, it's Identity IQ, which is designed for secure logins. "Wearables can help solve the password problem, with enterprise grade security," he said.

Krzanich then called an Intel developer on stage to demonstrate a new identity bracelet. As she walked toward her computer, it unlocked, but it locked when she walked away. When she took the bracelet off and handed it to Krzanich, he was hit with a password prompt, because the bracelet requires you to re-authenticate every time you put it on.

Intel's CEO then called tv producer, and United Artists Media Group CEO Mark Burnett on stage to talk about a new show Intel and Turner Broadcasting will have called "America's Greatest Makers."  Inventors will vye for a $1 million prize and can submit their ideas at to submit ideas by October.

Holographic Screens, Next-Gen SSDs

Krzanich then talked about some of the most forward-looking technologies, the company is working on behind the scenes. He showed a holographic display projecting from an all-in-one, which looks like the same device we tested at CES 2015.  However, Krzanich said that it offers haptic feedback, something we did not experience in our hands-on.

The CEO brought Rob Crooke, Senior VP of the Non-Volatile Memory Solutions Group, to talk about 3D XPoint memory technology.Crooke explained how 3D XPoint technology allows you to create memory that is 1000x faster than NAND Flash but denser than DRAM. He announced Intel's new "Optane Technology" brand, which will deliver SSDs and DIMMs baesd on the new technology.

Crooke then showed a desktop with an Optane-based SSD and a standard NAND-based SSD running a benchmark. The Optane-based SSD was between 5 and 7 times faster, depending on the workload the benchmark was running.

Krzanich closed his keynote by demonstrating his ability to control a legion of small robotic spiders with a wrist band. As he wiggled his hand, the spiders wiggled. When he fist pumped, the spiders sat up and, when he lowered his arm, they laid down. A giant robotic spider about the size of a motorcycle came on stage and walked around. Intel's CEO said that the large spider has a Core i7 processor as its brain and a RealSense camera for its eyes. The spider then performed a dance routine to "Uptown Funk" as the small spiders also moved to the music.

Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.