Intel steals the show at CES 2016 with an inspired, futuristic keynote

Many companies in the computing space have decided they’re too cool for CES. Apple never had a presence there. Microsoft has pulled out of the event. Dell has no showing on the floor, nor does HP, even though they’re North America’s two largest computer companies.

Intel bucks that trend, and at CES 2016, the company proved it’s not a matter of tradition but instead a way for it to harness the buzz of the coming year. It’s easy to forget that Intel is one of technology’s oldest, and makes most of its money from a portion of the market – computer processors – that’s said to be in decline.

RealSense grows up

It was three years ago at CES 2013 that Intel first headlined the RealSense 3D camera, and it didn’t go over well. Seemingly invented as a way to justify the incredible processing power of Intel’s hardware – processing video from a 3D camera isn’t easy – the technology was long on promise but short on application. The company had demos of games, and some creative applications, but that was about it.

intelrealsense

Frankly, RealSense still isn’t that great for the PC, though it does support Windows Hello – a win in my book. But Intel has expanded the technology, partnering with drone and robot manufacturers to help their devices see and make sense of their surroundings.

One of the biggest announcements was the Yuneec Phantom Typhoon H, the “world’s first fully intelligence consumer drone.” It not only follows or leads the user, but also avoids obstacles while doing so. That’s possible only because of the RealSense camera, which easily discerns the distance from objects in its field of view. The Ninebot from Segway operates on the same principle, using the RealSense camera to identify and interact with its owner without the need for any dongles, wearables, or smartphone apps to track the user’s position.

RealSense will certainly help keep up Intel’s reputation as a leader in innovation.

I’m doubtful that these uses are what Intel originally intended. They do little to promote the goal of selling more 6th-generation Core processors. But they do give Intel the opportunity to enter new markets, and just as importantly, keep its image from getting stale. The company has always been a master of brand control, keeping itself relevant despite the fact it builds products most people don’t understand. RealSense will certainly help it keep up its reputation as a leader in innovation.

What’s small is big

Intel’s other big push at this year’s keynote involves another new category — wearables. The story here is actually a lot like RealSense. The company has been talking about wearables for a long time, and low-power processors for even longer. Yet nothing has caught on; anyone needing a chip that draws very little power goes with ARM.

The company hopes to change that with Curie, a tiny new chip built by Intel specifically for wearable devices. It’s designed to run off a coin-sized battery, yet provide enough power for complicated software.

intelcurie

How complicated? One of the more interesting examples shown was Oakley’s Radar Pace, a wearable, virtual fitness coach that can integrate into a pair of smart sunglasses. The coach can analyze a user’s current activity and make suggests on how to improve it. If it believes you can run faster, it’ll say so. If it thinks you’re pushing too hard, it’ll tell you to back off. That’s more than current wearables provide, and it does require a reasonably strong processor to collect the data and make judgments both on data collected over time, and in real time.

With all this said, Curie is new, and in some ways it shows. Intel gave everyone at the conference a wristband with the chip inside, which lit up based on gestures, and was supposed to interact with performances on stage. Most of those demonstrations didn’t pan out – perhaps they worked, but if they did, it wasn’t obvious. And while Intel ended the keynote with an interesting performance by award-winning composer A.R. Rahman, featuring performers who used wearables in place of instruments, the number felt a bit raw in parts, forced in others, and at the musician’s movements didn’t always seem to result in the intended sounds.

Intel is acting like a start-up, and that’s good for innovators

Obviously, Intel’s strong showing is a win for the company. It would be easy enough for the brand to follow HP and Microsoft down the path towards pop culture pariah. Awesome keynotes help the company prove that while it may be old, it’s no dinosaur.

daqrismarthelment

But the impact is broader than that, as made obvious by the constant stream of partners that marched on stage. Companies you’ve heard of, like New Balance, and those you haven’t, like Daqri, which makes a “smart helmet” that is somewhat similar to the HoloLens. Intel’s decision to reach out to smaller companies that have strange new ideas, but may not have the hardware to execute them, is a win-win for everyone.

Frankly, Intel may have stolen the show. There’s no company of similar size involved in more interesting projects. Strangely, that may be because of its failure in some mature products. While Samsung and Sony talked about the technologies of today – phones, computers, and televisions – Intel’s stage showed everyone the technology of tomorrow.

Computing

Leaked AMD Ryzen 3000 mobile benchmarks look fit for thin, low-power laptops

AMD is poised to give Intel a run for its money in the ultra-low-power processor space for laptops. Leaked benchmarks for the Ryzen 3000 APU series show the AMD processor besting Intel's Core i7 Y series in multicore performance.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Marshawn Lynch, Netflix streaming data, and more

The NES and SNES Classic Editions may be being discontinued, but new streaming data from Netflix has been released, and we sat down with Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch on Thursday's episode of Digital Trends Live.
Computing

Microsoft Surface Pro 6: Everything you need to know

The Surface Pro 6 is officially here, though it's not as big of a redesign as you might have hoped. With a new coat of black paint and an 8th-gen processor, this is a small update. If you've been eyeing a Surface Pro, you may want to wait…
Computing

Intel answers Qualcomm's new PC processors by pairing Core and Atom in 'Foveros'

Intel has announced a new packaging technology called 'Foveros' that makes it easier for the company to place multiple chips together on one package. That includes chips based on different Intel architectures, like Core and Atom.
Computing

Latest Facebook bug exposed up to 6.8 million users’ private photos

An API bug recently left an impact on Facebook users. Though the issue has since been fixed, some of the apps on the platform had a wrongful access to consumers photos for 12 days between September 13 and September 25. 
Computing

You can now get a Surface Laptop 2 for $800 at the Microsoft Store

Along with deals on other variants, starting configurations of Microsoft's Surface Laptop 2 are now going for $800 online at its retail store, cutting $200 from its usual $1,000 starting price. 
Computing

You’ll soon be able to scribble all over PDFs on your Chromebook

Chrome OS users may soon be able to doodle all over their PDF documents with the possible addition of a new feature in Chrome OS' PDF viewer. The annotation feature is expected to allow users to hand draw or write over their documents.
Computing

Need a monitor for professional photo-editing? These are the very best

Looking for the best monitor for photo editing? You'll need to factor in brightness, color accuracy, color gamut support and more. Fortunately, we've rounded up the best ones for you, to help you make an educated purchase.
Computing

HDR monitors are beginning to have an impact. Here are the best you can buy

HDR isn't the most common of PC monitor features and is often charged at a premium, but the list of available options is growing. These are the best HDR monitors you can buy right now.
Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Prices drop, but our favorite stays the same

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two big names in the virtual reality arena, but most people can only afford one. Our comparison tells you which is best when you pit the Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive.
Computing

Microsoft’s Windows 95 throwback was just an ugly sweater giveaway

Microsoft's "softwear" announcement wasn't what we had hoped for. Thursday's announcement was not the new line of wearable tech or SkiFree monster sweater we wished for. But it did deliver the 90s nostalgia we wanted.
Home Theater

Confused about LED vs. LCD TVs? Here's everything you need to know

Our LED vs. LCD TV buying guide explains why these two common types of displays are fundamentally connected, how they differ, what to look for in buying an LED TV, and what's on the horizon for TVs.
Computing

Canada’s winters inspired a startup to warm homes with cryptomining heat waste

Cryptomining may be the key to untold riches and the future of currency, but it’s also an environmental nightmare. Heatmine, thinks it has the answer, but it could mean bolting a mining rig onto every home and business in the country.
Deals

The best MacBook deals for December 2018

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.