With the tiny Intel Joule, the Maker Movement gets a huge upgrade

Dean Evans Technology Writer Twitter

The Intel Joule launched at IDF 2016 alongside Project Alloy and 7th generation Intel Core processors.

It might not look like much. But this thumb-sized IoT module is a high-end maker board that supports Intel’s RealSense 3D camera technology. That makes ideal for use in everything from computer vision and robotics to drones and AR applications.

In short: Joule is Intel’s most powerful dev kit ever. So the big question is this: what will people be able to build with it?

Intel Joule 570x
The Joule is Intel’s newest and most powerful dev kit, built around a quad-core Atom processor.

For a start, the platform will be featured in the new season of the TV show America’s Greatest Makers. But several companies already have their hands on Joule technology and have been using it in a variety of different ways.

More powerful than the existing Edison and Curie kits, the Joule 550x and 570x boards are based around quad core Intel Atom CPUs. Despite their size, they’re surprisingly flexible, supporting 4K-capable Intel HD Graphics, DDR4 memory, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1.

Pivothead safety glasses with Intel Joule
These AR safety glasses from Pivothead run on the Intel Joule platform.

French company PivotHead is using Joule to add computer vision to safety glasses. Thanks to a centrally-mounted camera and onboard computing power, the glasses can continuously monitor what workers see and provide real-time audio feedback to ensure they complete tasks accurately.

French company EyeLights, meanwhile, is using Joule as part of its heads up display system for motorcycle helmets. Check it out in the video below.

Intel Joule’s flexibility, low power consumption and tiny size makes it ideal for use in robotics projects. Microsoft’s Bamboo robot, for example, was built in a little over six weeks using Joule, the EZ-Robot EZ-B control system and Windows 10 IoT Core.

Using Joule’s wireless capabilities, Bamboo can connect to cloud-bases services to translate speech. While Joule’s support for RealSense allows the robot panda to “move about and build an understanding of her environment.”

Microsoft Bamboo robot with Intel Joule
The Microsoft Bamboo robot uses Intel Joule, Intel RealSense and Windows 10 IoT Core.

It’s not the only robot using the new system-on-module (SOM) technology. Japanese company VStone has plans to develop its Sota II robotic platform with Joule. The aim? To build bots with vision and conversational abilities as companions for the elderly.

As a step towards this goal, VStone teamed up with Intel at IDF 2016 to show off a conversational bartending robot. Running on the Reference Linux OS for IoT, the bot uses Intel RealSense technology to track a person’s face and Intel Intent Express/natural language processing to respond to speech.

It all runs simultaneously on the Intel Joule platform.

Intel Joule at IDF 2016
The new Intel Joule maker board is designed for future IoT devices and robots like this bartender robot made by VStone.

Makers and inventors have already built some wonderful devices with Intel Galileo and Edison/Arduino boards. Joule will allow them to think bigger, leveraging a device that offers high-end computing and large memory in a tiny, low-power package. I can’t wait to see what the world’s brightest makers come up with next.

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