LAS VEGAS — Intel mixed Vegas showmanship with gee-whiz technology to open its CES show today, bringing musicians and dancers on stage along with tablet-toting techies, who captured the action with those tablets.
On big screens behind the stage, scans of the performers were displayed in real time, showing the fast capture and processing of 3-D images shown off on numerous PCs out on the show floor.
Chief Executive Brian Krzanich followed up by saying the world is entering a new era of technological change comparable to the one that began with the arrival of the Pentium processor and commercial browsers in 1995.
“I feel that 2015 is truly a unique year. It’s the beginning of the next consumer technology wave,” Krzanich said. “The last time we’ve seen a wave of change this big was exactly 20 years ago today.”
He didn’t mention Windows 95, but he did note that 2015 is also the 50th anniversary of the famed Moore’s Law — the prediction by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore that the number of transistors on a circuit will double about every two years.
Now, “we’re going from a two-dimensional world to a three-dimensional world,” Krzanich said. “This additional dimension will change the way we experience computing.”
Krzanich listed three big trends — “computing unleashed,” intelligence everywhere and the wearable revolution.
Computing unleashed refers to the arrival of three-dimensional computing and the ability of computers to “see and understand.” It also refers to the rise of wireless and mobile computing.
Then Krzanich showed the new 3-D Dell Venue 8, a $399 Android tablet with Intel’s “Real Sense” camera technology, which adds depth to images.
A Windows laptop with “Real Sense” was shown in use displaying a recipe by a cook with messy hands. The cook was able to start and pause the video recipe — Guy Fieri’s “Ain’t No Thing Butta Chicken Wing” — by waving his hands and not messing up the PC.
“Real Sense” cameras are coming to a range of desktop and mobile computers this year, he said.
Intel also is pursuing “wireless computing,” which charges devices without wires, using instead wireless systems connecting peripherals with radios. Krzanich announced that Intel’s wireless charging systems will start appearing in Marriott hotels in the second quarter.
Intel’s cameras also are used in the HP “Sprout” PC, which has a built-in 3-D scanner.
Krzanich said he has a Sprout PC at home but for a demo, he brought Dion Weisler, executive vice president of printing and personal systems, on stage.
Weisler showed a chain link printed with a new HP 3-D printer powered by an Intel Core i7 processor. The link was strong enough to hold up a truck.
Then Krzanich showed a research project that uses a 3-D touchscreen display, which is like a touchable hologram. It was used to play a virtual piano.
To introduce the Internet of Things, Intel wheeled onto the stage a door with an ADT security system that unlocks wirelessly when a person is authenticated by a smartphone. The demo almost failed. Krzanich wandered over to open the door physically to let his assistant in, but it unlocked at the last moment.
A demo of iRobot’s “Ava” video collaboration robot worked much better. The robot is equipped with 3-D cameras and a display, within which iRobot Chief Executive Colin Angle spoke remotely from the Boston area. Then it wheeled itself off stage.
Even better was the next presentation — drones equipped with Real Sense cameras and Intel processors that gave them the vision and intelligence to avoid objects. The drones, from Ascending Technologies, were used to play “drone pingpong” in which a drone moved back and forth between Krzanich and the Ascending representatives, reversing course when it sensed them as an obstacle.
That was followed by “Game of Drones” — a room-size obstacle course in the huge ballroom. It was used to show how smart the drones really are with the new technology. After successfully making it through the fenced-in course, the drone was allowed to fly out through a doorway.
Finally, Krzanich turned to wearables. At last year’s CES, he announced a stamp-sized hardware board for developers to build wearable computing devices.
Tonight he followed up with the introduction of a smaller, button-sized system-on-a-chip called Curie. It includes a processor and sensors, including motion sensors tracking Krzanich’s activity during the keynote.
“This changes the game of wearables,” he said, noting that Intel is working with fashion companies and that Curie is small enough to be used as a button on clothing.
One partner excited about Curie is eyewear maker Oakley. Its chief executive, Colin Baden, came on stage to talk about how it can use the new Intel hardware in gear for both professional athletes and consumers.
“It’s important that the form factor compress” so the computing hardware doesn’t become burdensome on glasses, he said.
Intel engineers have also been working on ways to use Real Sense technology to assist the visually impaired. Krzanich demonstrated with a mannequin wearing a sensor-equipped vest that changed colors and vibrated when he approached.
A visually impaired Intel employee working on the project said he has benefited from wearing a jacket with the sensors because it informs him when something needs his attention, via sensations that he can process faster than visual cues. Wearing it, he can be more focused on tasks because the surroundings don’t divert his attention as much.
“This gives me a sense of comfort and confidence in my environment that I have not felt for a long, long time,” he said.
Krzanich said Intel will share the technology with others developing such applications.
The presentation concluded with Krzanich calling for more inclusion and support of diversity in the tech industry. Microsoft made a similar pledge after meeting last month with activist Jesse Jackson, who was in the audience at Krzanich’s CES keynote.
“It’s time to step up and do more,” he said, adding that it’s not good enough “to say we value diversity” and not have a workforce that represents the available talent.
Intel will achieve “full representation” by 2020, which means it will step up hiring of women and minorities, report progress publicly and tie leaders’ pay to their progress on this front, he said.
The company also plans to invest $300 million on diversity programs, including efforts to increase the pipeline of women and minorities entering the tech industry.
“This isn’t just good business, this is the right thing to do,” he said.
Related: Photos from CES