Smart cars and gesture interfaces will become mainstream in the next few years, says Intel
On Wednesday, Intel brought its Future Showcase technology roadshow to London. It features dozens of existing and upcoming products – everything from wireless charging bowls to smartwatches and 30-inch tablets, all obviously powered by Intel chips.
But two of the exhibits are particularly interesting: one is a meticulously crafted dashboard of a smart car which can tell the driver how long they have to wait at a traffic light, or warn them about a school bus which has just stopped to pick up children.
The other is RealSense, an infrared scanner module which allows the user to create detailed 3D images of real-wold objects and manipulate menus on the screen with a movement of their hand – like in the Minority Report.
Intel all the things
The Future Showcase opens with a stand that features a number of existing devices that run thanks to Intel’s silicon, including desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones and All-in-Ones. Health trackers from Basis, a wearable technology start-up recently acquired by Intel, are also present. Even though these are not powered by Intel processors, they contain Bluetooth chips made by the company.
Next, we see more recent, experimental endeavours like the NUC – a fully featured PC that’s about the size of a few slices of toast – as well as Galileo boards and Edison modules for the Internet of Things.
And this is where the familiar territory ends, and we enter the domain of Intel Labs, the company’s research and development division. Among the products that are due to hit the market in the next few months is the design for a tablet/laptop hybrid, developed specifically for education purposes and codenamed Palace Hill.
This rugged, waterproof device was built to withstand abuse by children, but ships with additional features that are missing from some of the premium tablets on the market, for example an HDMI port, integrated stylus and a snap-on camera lens.
The Palace Hill tablet also participates in one of Intel’s non-chip-related projects called the Alternative Power Architecture. It gives certain devices the ability to be charged directly from alternative power sources such as solar cells – a tricky proposition, when you consider that many such power sources output constantly fluctuating levels of voltage.
The World of Tomorrow
One of the most interesting products on the show floor is RealSense – a tiny, affordable circuit that can fit in a laptop bezel to enable the computer to see the world in three dimensions. It features an infrared sensor alongside an HD camera and microphone, and has multiple uses – for example, it can simultaneously track movements of ten fingers to enable gesture interface, while listening to the voice commands.
The IR sensor can recognise 78 points on a face – something which could be handy for user identification. Meanwhile, the ability to scan objects to create 3D models should appeal to 3D printing enthusiasts – at the event, Intel actually scanned one of its ‘Bunny Men’ and made an almost identical copy out of purple resin.
Best of all, the technology is already in production and should appear in devices from various manufacturers later this year.
Intel Labs has also created a virtual model of a car with a real dashboard, to show how the driving process could change in the future. It automatically recognises the passengers, and customises the settings accordingly, bringing up their schedules and music playlists.
The heads-up display always monitors the speed limit in any given area. When the car stops at a traffic light, the dashboard will inform the driver when the red is going to change to green, and if the time allows, show them an email or offer to complete another short task.
In the scenario we were shown, the driver was picking up his daughter for lunch – the car read the message which mentioned that she was hungry, and automatically offered a choice of restaurants nearby, based on the preferences of both.
Could a similar car be built today? Absolutely, says Intel, but the Internet of Things infrastructure necessary for such advanced features is still a long way from completion.
You can see some of the products from the Future Showcase below:
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