Intel enters wearable tech fray at CES 2014

Intel Corp. CEO Brian Krzanich wrapped up his keynote at CES 2014 tonight, unveiling a slew of new devices in wearable tech and a tiny computer almost small enough to fit into an SD card slot.

Named as head of Intel in May 2013, Krzanich took the stage in Las Vegas, Nev., as the opening speaker for a slate of headlining keynotes, branded as the “Tech Titans” series.

(Image: Intel). Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.
(Image: Intel). Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.

The first new product out of the gate was a pair of earbuds, which had sensors built into them to measure heart rate – a “smart” tool for runners out on a jog.

(Image: Intel). Intel's Jarvis headset.
(Image: Intel). Intel’s Jarvis headset.

Soon afterwards came the Jarvis headset, a Bluetooth headset that curls around the wearer’s ear, according to the Verge. Like Apple’s Siri, Jarvis can remotely interact with a user’s smartphone, giving directions and performing tasks like looking up restaurants via voice commands. Alongside those was a bowl that will charge objects that are dropped into it – and while these demos may not seem earth-shattering, it seems Intel is intent on positioning itself front and centre in the rise of smart devices.

Still, one of Intel’s big reveals was for its new smart watch, set to square off against competitors already in the space like Samsung’s Galaxy Gear and Pebble. Unlike those smart watches, Intel’s version won’t need to be paired with a smartphone – instead, it’ll shoot its wearer notifications based on location with geofencing technology.

Inside the watch will be one of Intel’s most intriguing new products – Edison, a tiny computer for its wearable tech processor. With Krzanich calling it a “full Pentium-class PC,” the Verge is reporting it’s roughly the same size as the SD cards that go into cameras. Powered by a dual-core Quark system on a chip, it runs Linux and comes with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. It will also have its own app store. To demo Edison, Intel showed how data from a baby’s onesie with built-in sensors could display information on a coffee mug. The tiny computer put alerts on the coffee mug to show when the baby was comfortable and when it wasn’t.

(Image: Intel). Intel's Edison mini computer.
(Image: Intel). Intel’s Edison mini computer.

While’s Intel foray into smart devices may take some by surprise, the company known for its chips for PCs has clearly been mulling over this push into mobile, smart, and wearable tech for a while. In a New Year’s eve interview with Recode, Krzanich said Intel would be shifting away from PCs and making more of a leap into mobile, starting with  a new addition to its Quark line of chips that will be tailored for wearables.

We’ve already seen the first fruits of Intel’s push into hardware. During a press conference earlier in the day, Intel launched its RealSense hardware and software line at a press event at CES. One of its latest gadgets is the tiny, very slim RealSense 3D camera, featuring a 1080p colour camera. Intel called it “the world’s first integrated 3D depth and 2D camera module that helps devices ‘see’ depth much like the human eye.” That sets it apart from other motion capture cameras on the market, like Leap Motion or Kinect, Engadget notes in this story.

(Image: Intel). Intel's RealSense camera.
(Image: Intel). Intel’s RealSense camera.

Intel plans on adding the RealSense 3D camera to a slew of tablets, ultrabooks, laptops, and all-in-one PCs from companies like Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo and others sometime later in 2014. There are already seven devices like these being demo’ed at CES today, Engadget says, with Intel also showing off its own device. Krzanich is expected to talk about that more tonight, as well as about Intel’s new partnership with U.S.-based company 3D Systems, which specializes in building 3D printers.

Still, if you’re itching to get your hands on an Intel-made tablet, don’t get your hopes up just yet. Among the products Intel is showing off at CES, many probably won’t be ready until April, and some of them won’t be available for purchase for about a year.

However, Intel still seems reticent about getting into smartphones, with Krzanich noting that working with Samsung or Apple is the price of admission into that market.

“The phone space is tough because it is consolidated,” Krzanich told Recode. “If you really want to make inroads in [smartphones], you need to win one of the two big guys.”

Later this week, CES-goers will also hear from keynote speakers Rupert Stadler of Audi AG, Gary Shapiro of the Consumer Electronics Association, Kazuo Hirai of the Sony Corporation, Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Cisco’s John Chambers.

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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