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Intel at CES 2012: Future Ultrabooks to sport NFC, voice recognition, gesture controls

As expected, Intel is making a heavy push into the Ultrabook field, and the coming year will be the year of the Ultrabook, if the manufacturer has anything to say about it. At CES today, Intel unveiled a handful of new technology to compete with in the super thin computer field that both imitates and innovates.

It is no secret that Intel has had its eye on the ultraportable market for a while now.  It has sunk hundreds of millions into developing ultra-slim components that make the products feasible, and has been working with several manufacturers, including Asus and Lenovo — many more will likely be announced over the week at CES. Some will look and feel similar to a Mac Book Air, but there are a few potentially interesting variations on the way.

The most attention-grabbing piece of hardware Intel showed off was the Nikishki ultrabook, a prototype that incorporates the Ivy Bridge architecture in an ultra-sleek packaging. The Nikishki features a new type of touch pad that is transparent and runs the length of device. Although it is clear, it operates like a standard touchpad, until you close the ultrabook. The transparent section then allows you to see a portion of the display, letting you to read off a handful of messages that you set up — things like your daily schedule, for example. It is a slick use of the Ultrabook.

Built into new Ultrabooks will be NFC technology that will help to keep your credit information secure. As well as the NFC incorporation, Nuance voice recognition software will be native with the upcoming Ultrabooks — an obvious counter to Apple’s Siri. The software will recognize nine languages out of the box, and be able to answer questions that you ask it.

Intel also showed off some gesture-based controls that work on a PC using the built in camera, and we should be seeing more of this throughout the year. The technology looks to still be in the early stages — the example shown was a game, but hopefully this experience will go beyond just the Kinect-like controller, and will allow full gesture-based controls for operating your computer’s interface.

Intel also announced that it has around 75 Ultrabooks in some level of development, including multiple sizes up to at least 15 inches.

A video then ran highlighting the weight of the Ultrabook. In the video, two pickpockets planted an Ultrabook in the bag of an unsuspecting woman. A security officer then asks to search her bag, and the woman is shocked to find an Ultrabook there. Then the guards threaten the woman with jail time and it gets awkward as the woman squirms. But the point was that the Ultrabook was incredibly light weight — just over two pounds.

More than just a go at humor, the ad led into an announcement that Intel is planning a massive media blitz to highlight the Ultrabooks. The upcoming advertising campaign, which will reach full steam around April, will be the company’s biggest marketing push since the introduction of the Centrino chip back in 2003.

Overall, Intel’s announcements were interesting, but were more about preparing us for the future than debuting new technology. But if Intel’s determination is any indication, this will be the year of the Ultrabook, and Intel will be at the vanguard of the charge.