Meet Intel's vision of the future, from robots to smart cars to talking dogs

Intel showed off a wealth of future technology this week, from laptops with integrated depth cameras, (hackable) connected cars, and even solar-power solutions.

intel future showcase jimmy robot
Mark Hachman

Intel's Future Tech Showcase

Jimmy the Robot welcomed attendees to what Intel called its Future Tech Showcase, a Thursday night exhibition in San Francisco.

Like Microsoft, Intel has a long history of opening its doors to what its researchers, futurists, and partners are cooking up in their research labs. Thursday's showcase included the first demonstrations of Microsoft Kinect-like depth cameras embedded into laptops and tablets, a connected car scenario (and how it could be hacked) and demonstrations of Intel's next generation Core M chips.

On the next few pages, we'll show you Intel's vision for the future.

Intel robot app store
Mark Hachman

An app store, too

If you so choose, Jimmy the Robot could be Jenny—it's enitrely up to you. That's because the exterior shell is fabricated using a 3D printer.

Inside Jimmy is a collection of servos and motors, the foundation of the $1,600 kit Intel will sell later this year, according to Intel futurist Brian David Johnson. Intel also has added an abstaction layer to the software interface, exposing the APIs and allowing developers to create apps.  

Want to learn more? Head on over to 21stCenturyRobot.

Intel pocket avatars
Mark Hachman

Pocket Avatars

Intel has this odd tendency to branch out into markets where it really has no business in. Video streaming for the TV, for example.  

This is Intel's Pocket Avatars, a new twist on chat avatars. Intel wants to inject passion and excitement into mobile chat through a new app that relies on face-tracking technology to assess facial expressions and mood. In reality, it means talking dog heads.

Intel Edison microprocessor
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Edison chip

You're probably familiar with Intel's Core chips for PCs and notebooks, and possibly its embedded Atom chips as well. Meet the new Edison chip, which Intel announced this past January at CES.

Intel hopes the emerging wearables market and the "Internet of Things" will adopt Edison, which Intel upgraded in March. The chip will ship this summer, Intel has said.

Intel depth camera modules
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RealSense camera modules

Speaking of CES, you might remember Intel’s other push: the RealSense camera modules that essentially put a Microsoft Kinect depth camera inside of a laptop. Here they are—the top one is designed for notebooks, the bottom for tablets.

This isn't pie-in-the-sky stuff. Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, and NEC have already agreed to build them into PCs. Fun fact: Intel's camera modules include their own embedded chips, so they won't be stealing any gaming power from your PC.

Intel integrated depth camera
Mark Hachman

Embedded depth camera

This isn't anything fancy: Intel's depth cameras simply replace your Webcam. This is a Dell prototype laptop with the camera embedded in it. And what can you do with it? Click to the next page, and we'll show you.

Intel superimposed image presentation
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A disembodied head?

Right there in the middle of the screen is the floating head of Achin Bhowmik, Intel's general manager and CTO of perceptual computing.

Intel's depth cameras can strip out the background of a video chat, replacing it with any background you'd like. In business, this might be a presentation; in your personal life, this might be your hellaciously messy bedroom. Makes a bit more sense now, doesn't it?

Intel machine vision
Mark Hachman

Depth cameras on a tablet

Inside of a tablet, Intel's depth cameras can "scan" the environment with their two cameras, creating a 3D perspective like their eyes do. 

This demonstration digitally inserted a robot avatar that could walk around real-world obstacles that were created virtually. Qualcomm has shown off a similar technology, called Vuforia, which is arguably more effective: McDonalds is using the technology to use its french-fry boxes to unlock virtual soccer fields.

Intel 3D scanning
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I've been scanned!

Forget the selfie—try the “scannie”. With a depth camera, all you need to do is walk the tablet slowly around a person or object, and the camera creates a 3D image. So imagine being able to print as many figurines of your cat as you’d like. Or possibly life-size statues of your favorite tech reporter. Yeah, that’s just creepy.

Intel floating display
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A floating display

And now for something completely different: a "floating" display. Through some optical magic (mirrors and displays) the surface of the screen appears to float in the air. It's amazing, really.

The floating display uses the depth camera to detect your finger, so you can "push" buttons and manipulate objects. (The buttons were quite bright and easy to see; a floating globe in the center, less so.)

And the screen can't be seen from someone next to you, providing a secure interface for an ATM, for example.

Intel solar power charging station
Mark Hachman

Smart Solar Controller

Intel developed its Classmate PC as its own take on the One Laptop Per Child initiative of a few years ago. Unfortunately, it’s useless without power—which isn’t guaranteed in some parts of the world.

Meet Intel’s Smart Solar Controller. Paired with a small solar panel (which you'll see on the next slide), it can power four Classmate PCs. The controller constantly senses and smoothes the power curve, so that the laptops receive a stable supply of juice.

Intel solar panel
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Solar panel

Any solar panel can be used with Intel's solar controller or hub, like this portable 100-watt model.

Intel educational PC
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Classmate PC

Here's the Intel Classmate PC two-in-one. The tablet detaches so kids can tote it around the classroom. 

Intel solar power hub
Mark Hachman

Smart solar controller hub

But wait, there's more! Inside the rural classroom, there may be additional PCs, , displays, phones, and other devices. This prototype solar hub adjusts the voltage per port for different devices, detecting them and their power needs. The hub lacks a battery, but there's enough capacitance inside the box to keep power flowing in case a cloud floats across the sun.

Intel connected car dashboard
Mark Hachman

Intel's connected car vision

Forget Google's vision of self-driving cars. Richard Libby, Intel's point man on car technology, believes in a car that can communicate with people, objects, and other cars, communicating information via multiple displays mounted all around the interior.

Intel connected car dashboard
Mark Hachman

Oh no -- terms of service?

In this model, this car isn't yours, just one you're borrowing or renting from a stranger. So yes, you have to agree to some terms and conditions before you can set off.

intel car tech fixed
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Email, music, and more

Distracted driving plays a strong role in Intel's vision of the car.

All of this information only shows up when the car is parked or at a traffic light—Intel's car "knows" when the light will turn green, giving you 30 seconds or so to read an email or select a song to play.

Intel hacking a car
Mark Hachman

Hacking the connected car

One of the problems with connecting a car is that any connection with the outside world can be potentially taken over. With a car, lives could be at risk.

In this scary demonstration, an Intel researcher hacked into a (model) car's CAN bus and told it to accelerate to its maximum speed. Intel's answer? Its McAfee security division can be used to secure the car, too.

intel llama mountain Core-M
Mark Hachman

Llama Mountain hybrid tablet

Intel will launch its next generation of Core processors, code-named "Broadwell," later this year. Some of those chips will be marketed as the "Core M," and designed for power-sipping tablet-laptop hybrids like this reference design, code-named "Llama Mountain". 

Intel game tabletop
Mark Hachman

A portable all-in-one

Finally, we arrive at what Intel calls a portable all-in-one: a battery-backed monster display that can be toted from one room to another. Sure, it can be used to watch TV, but it can also be laid flat for tabletop gaming, such as this take on penguin shuffleboard. 

The bottom line: Intel’s in the business to sell chips. Designing the home of the future gives its potential customers something to design for—and reasons to keep buying chips from Intel.

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