Edge of Innovation

Which new technology won the Intel Future Showcase 2015?


Computers that fit in your pocket, self-navigating drones and data that can travel through your fingertips. These were just some of the technologies on show at the Intel Future Showcase 2015 in London — an annual glimpse at the best of Intel today and some of its ambitious concepts for tomorrow.

One of Intel’s biggest innovations is the RealSense 3D camera

You might not see one of Intel’s biggest innovations at first. But it can see you. Intel’s RealSense 3D camera adds clever depth-sensing technology to enable new features such as gesture-control and 3D scanning. RealSense is already finding its way into the next generation of laptops, tablets and desktop PCs.

The technology is now small enough to be integrated into future smartphones.

At the Intel Future Showcase, RealSense is baked into the HP Sprout, an all-in-one desktop system that tempts you to forgo a keyboard and mouse for virtual inputs via an Intel 3D camera, projector and a Touch Mat. This combination creates a unique dual touch system that extends from screen to desktop.

Read more about the HP Sprout and next-generation computing, here.

RealSense certainly has some entertaining applications. The Sprout can scan objects placed on its Touch Mat and turn them into 3D models; the 3D camera in the Dell Venue 8 tablet can be used to scan faces with extraordinary accuracy (3DMe); while RealSense cameras in an AscTec Firefly drone could enable it to automatically identify obstacles, map its surroundings and potentially fly itself.

The delivery drones of the future could rely on RealSense technology.

Asctec drone with RealSense
This AscTec Firefly drone (left) features multiple RealSense cameras to give it a 360-degree field of vision (right) and enhanced depth perception. Ultimately, it could fly itself.

Seeing the HP Sprout, NUC and Compute Stick side-by-side shows just how much computing form factors have changed. The Broadwell-powered NUC, for example, shrinks a desktop PC down into the size of a stack of coasters. Add a small touchscreen and it gives you a fresh spin on the idea of the ‘mini PC’.

The Compute Stick is even smaller — a PC the size of a USB drive with the power to turn any USB-equipped monitor or TV into a Windows 8 or Linux computer.

Intel NUC with touchscreen
Pairing the Intel NUC with a small touchscreen creates a versatile mini PC that makes a capable music system.

Wearables like the MICA, Basis Peak and SMS Audio Biosport headphones showcase the fact that computing technology isn’t just getting smaller, it’s becoming almost invisible.

Intel’s prototype indoor positioning system uses smart NFC tags that you carry around with you to trigger pre-programmed events like the lights switching on when you enter a room or a Sonos system playing music as you move around the house.

It’s part of a Galileo-powered Home Gateway automation system that hopes to act as a centralised hub for disparate smarthome devices.

The tiny size of Intel’s Edison boards and Quark processors will also enable new classes of sensors to be developed. The Smart Clip is a good example. Developed by an Intel engineer, it’s designed to clip onto a child’s seat belt, where it can monitor body temperature and alert you via Bluetooth if you and the child get separated.

Intel Edison board
Intel’s tiny Edison board is enabling new computing devices and sensors such as the Smart Clip.
Intel Smart Clip sensor
The Smart Clip is a baby/child monitor that features temperature and proximity monitoring. It’s powered by an Intel Edison board.

But the most futuristic of all the concepts at the Intel Future Showcase is a project that goes by the name of Human Body Communications. Think of it as a physical ‘cut and paste’ — the ability to tap one laptop and transfer a file through your fingertips to a ring or bracelet storage device before touching another laptop and transferring the file back. Sound crazy? Maybe. But the technology works.

It’s been 50 years since Gordon Moore predicted that “the number of transistors incorporated in a chip will approximately double every 24 months.”

Moore’s Law has driven Intel to make chips that are smaller, faster and cheaper than the generation before. Without it, most of the technology on show at the Intel Future Showcase just wouldn’t exist. — Dean Evans (@evansdp)

Read more from the Intel Future Showcase:

Desktop PC hardware isn’t dead (but look how it’s changed)
Meet the technology that turns your skin into a data network
How the RealSense 3D camera works (and some clever things you can do with it)
Will drone delivery quadcopters see with RealSense eyes?

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