5 Smart Gadgets, Gizmos and Robots Coming to Life

Ken Kaplan Executive Editor, iQ by Intel
mannequin wearing LED dress

Fall season always brings a wave of new devices, from smartphones to tablets and computers. But this season is seeing an influx of new wearables and technologies that allow amateur and professional innovators to create their own mind-bending maker projects, such as robots, mechanical games and personal spacecrafts.

Many of those gadgets and gizmos, some available now and in the months ahead, were shown for the first time at the Intel Developer Forum 2014 in San Francisco earlier in September. While the Internet of Things and the spread of data analytics capabilities stirred buzz among developers, new consumer products, prototypes and maker creations generated a lot of excitement among attendees.

The Dell Venue 8 7000 Series

It’s been billed as the world’s thinnest tablet, and it was a big enough deal it had Dell CEO, Michael Dell, join Intel CEO, Brian Krzanich, onstage to talk with developers at IDF.

Not only is it super thin, but it’s the first model to be shipping with Intel RealSense snapshot technology, which means it’s equipped with camera technology that allows it to capture depth photographs and manipulate your photos in a whole new way after the picture is taken.

“The Venue 8 7000 places the dual-lens camera on the back of an Android slate, opening up a whole new world of possibilities,” wrote Avram Piltch, online editorial director for Laptop magazine.

“The first thing we noticed on the Dell Venue 8 7000 is its absolutely gorgeous, 8.4-inch display. A background wallpaper image of a mountain scene seemed to come alive on the 2560 x 1600, OLED panel with brilliant greens, blues and beiges. Dark areas on the picture were particularly rich, perhaps because OLED technology offers the most accurate shades of black. This just might be the best screens we’ve seen on any tablet,” said Piltch.

Intel RealSense snapshot technology allows the Dell Venue 8 7000 to take depth-enhanced photos up close and far away. Once captured, the technology lets you change the focus of a photo or see a measured distance. With a touch of a finger, you can measure the length of a fresh-caught trout, the width of that new fridge or how high the college basketball star jumped when he made that power slam dunk. You can even tell different stories by refocusing subjects and objects in the foreground or background.

Another Intel RealSense technology coming soon uses a front-facing, 3D camera that focuses on you, the device owner. It will bring human-like senses to laptops, 2 in 1 computers and all-in-one PCs in the coming months. It lets personal computers see their owners in 3D, bringing new ways to control your computer, blending voice, touch and hand or facial gestures.

“Everything that’s autonomous — such as robots and drones — should have senses,” said Dr. Achin Bhowmik, Intel’s director of perceptual computing, in an interview with Business Insider Studios. “The human senses receive information via seeing, hearing, touching, etc., and the human brain processes that information to allow comprehension of the physical world and enable effortless movements and interactions. The same should go for these devices.”

Intel Core M Processor-Powered 2 in 1 Computers

Set to hit the market in October, with nearly two dozen new models currently in development, were a slew of new 2 in 1 prototype computers that function as a tablet and a laptop. Powered by Intel Core M processors, which have new 3-D transistors that measure 14 nm, smaller than the current state-of-the-art Intel Core i7 processors, which measure 22 nm.

The new processors and a slim tablet form factor demonstrated the platform’s potential as a low-power, high-performance mobile chip.

The 2 in1 has a smaller energy footprint, which allows it to provide a long battery life and to be fanless without compromising performance.

Nicole Scott, co-founder of Mobile Geeks, attended a developer session at IDF and reported on the performance she saw from Intel’s Llama Mountain Reference Design, which was built with the new Intel Core M-5Y70 processor.

“It has a low TDP or thermal design threshold, which makes it suitable for fanless designs as well as super thin and light devices,” she wrote in her review.

She even got geekier, and looked at how different materials used to make future 2 in 1s could bring even better performance.

“A pressed aluminum case is easier to make but will only yield 3-4W of thermal dissipation, the uni-body aluminum frame can handle 6-8 Watts. They even showed a copper tablet that has the best numbers with 10-12 Watts,” she wrote.

Big All-in-One PCs With 4K and 12 Touch Points

All-in-one PCs, sleek desktop computers that are portable and can be used like a giant tablet around the house, continue to evolve rapidly, including a collection of all-in-ones that run 4K video.

Typical high definition with 1080p resolution delivers a picture with two million pixels (1920 x 1080), while 4K ultra high definition has over eight million pixels (3840 x 2160). That’s around four times richer resolution compared with 1080p.

The all-in-one that got the most hands-on action at IDF was the Lenovo Horizon powered by an Intel Core i5 processor. It’s a tabletop gamer’s dream, measuring 26.3 by 16.1-inches and only .8-inches thick

The ability to have 12 simultaneous touch points allows for all kinds of gameplay from air hockey to Monopoly, shifting family board game night from the analog to the digital.

Basis Band Activity Tracker

Wearables like the MICA bracelet and the SMS Audio smart headphones were in good company with the collection of Basis Band smartwatches.

The Basis is considered by many to be a pioneering personal health tracker. It tracks everything from sleep to stress and knows when you’re running, walking and cycling. The ability to visually display data on the watch, and even more vividly on personal smartphones, tablets and computers, is something that could become more common in future wearable devices.

Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of Intel’s New Devices Group, recently told developers that Intel, which purchased Basis in March 2014, would provide them an API so they could create applications that allow people to use the collection of personal health data beyond the Basis device and app.

“We want to provide a common way … to use these devices and for developers to take these common building blocks and turn them into reality,” Bell said in a PC World article.

The new Basis Peak, slated to hit the market in time for the holidays, was first revealed at the Intel Developer Forum.

Make Your Own Jimmy the Robot

From robot wars to robot makers, there’s something indescribable about our fascination and adoration of autonomous creatures, especially when they look like people or even aliens.

For many, Jimmy is among the cutest robots of late. Its creator, Intel futurist Brian David Johnson, sees Jimmy as many things for many people, especially young students interested in building and programming their own personal robot. He’s on a quest to bring the 21st Century Robot to any robot fan.

While he sees robotic vacuums from the last decade as the equivalent of laptop computers when they first hit the scene, Johnson is making Jimmy like a smartphone of today.

“Robots will be as common as smartphones and laptops,” Johnson said in an interview with Venture Beat.

The latest Jimmy, built with Intel Edison technology, is a tenth of the cost he debuted at, and he’s getting more customizable with each new development. An earlier version of Jimmy used an Intel Core i5 processor and cost about $15,000 to make, while the newer version using Intel Edison costs $1,600.

The first Jimmy kits — HR-OSI Humanoid Endoskeleton with Intel Edison Inside — are available today, and there’s a quest to create applications to make Jimmy do almost anything you can imagine.

“When I’m out talking with grade school students, the number one thing they want Jimmy to do is to be funny,” said Johnson. “Yes, they also want him to make fart sounds.”

Jimmy the Robot has been making the rounds, visiting schools, developers and Maker Faires.


Todd Krieger contributed this story.


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