CES 2016 Day 0: Intel Keynote
I’m back in Vegas for CES 2016! I had a blast last year and was, in typical Microsoft fashion, “super excited” to get a chance to come back this year. Special thanks to my wife for giving me the thumbs up to take the trip (and leave her alone with the kiddos)!
Unlike last year, the Keynote day this year is Tuesday – with the show floors open Wednesday through Saturday. Last year it was Monday Keynotes, and show floor Tuesday through Friday. I mention this all to say that while I knew the schedule had slipped a day, I screwed up my travel plans and still arrived here in Vegas on Monday and I need to leave on Saturday. MEH! I’ll have to walk faster and be a bit more discerning on where I spend my time on the floors, no sleeping in, and no leaving early. Rest assured, dear readers, I’ll still find the cool stuff for you!
I learned from folks last year who tried to do the Samsung Keynote and then the Mercedes Keynote that it’s impossible to actually do both. While there’s an hour between, there are always long lines at both, the venue will run out of space, and the first one always goes long. So while last year I went to the second session for Mercedes at the Cosmopolitan, this year I went to the first Keynote from Intel at the Venetian.
If you want a full blow-by-blow journalistic accounting of the event, you should check out The Verge’s live blog of the Keynote. They had better seats than I did. That said, here are the cool things that caught my attention.
One of the big themes of the whole presentation was movement, and translating that data into experiences – from drawing to sports to music to drones to the workplace. Intel was showing off technologies that allow people to be “smart and connected”, provided a “sensification of computing” (their word, not mine), and that is “an extension of you. One of the key pieces of tech that powers a lot of what was show is Intel’s Curie platform, a $10 “system on a chip” or SOC that’s about the size of a shirt button (and not one of those crazy big ones either). There were demonstrations across three areas: sports and gaming, health and wellness, and creativity.
Before all that Intel CEO and un-energetic speaker Brian Krzanich said some stuff (marketing blah blah blah) and showed a video of some drones doing a light show in the night sky to the soundtrack of a live orchestra playing Beethoven’s 9th. Chef Boring Officer Krazanich went on to say that Inntel had “completely redefined the firework experience.” Look buddy, I know marketing BS when I hear it, and nothing exploded. Move along.
The first demo was a preeminent professional gamer who thanked her Intel sponsor for building a CPU that’s even better than the last generation. No shit?!? She then went to a console and threw down some action in Rainbow Six Siege, broadcast on Twitch, and with her image in the lower-left corner of the display. It was actually cool, using Intel’s RealSense camera tech it superimposed her on top of the gaming action like she was standing in front of a green screen (which she definitely wasn’t). I can see that being useful for teleconferences from my home office where I can crop out the rest of the room (my home office got turned into a playroom a decade ago – it’s typically a disaster area of toys).
Next came some more camera wizardry with some extra software that allows you to have a lifelike head on your avatar in a game, in this example Fallout 4. Cool factor, but not really my thing.
Blending e-gaming and real-gaming there was a demo of the freeD platform that lets you seamlessly switch between lots of different camera angles during the middle of a replay. It may have actually been letting you create your own camera angle and the software was figuring out how to render the real action from that position, but the demo was quick and that wasn’t super obviously. Cool if true, but not something I see the average Joe doing from his couch on Sunday afternoon. Maybe the NFL could use that for their instant replay system, though…?
Next came some stuff about that aforementioned Curie chip. ESPN is going to be using them at the Winter X Games coming up later in January on all the athletes’ boards/skis/whatevers. They’ve linked that up with a transmitter that should let you see what’s going on in realtime on TV. There was a demonstration of some BMX bikers doing tricks, including jumping over the Intel CEO. There was also a free runner from Red Bull – but they were too coy about what they were actually announcing to be worth saying much.
Yuneec showed off their coming-soon Typhoon H autonomous multi-rotor drone. That was pretty cool actually – it can follow you or stay in front of you, keeping its 4K camera pointed in your direction. But beyond that, it leverages an onboard CPU plus RealSense cameras to make sure it doesn’t run into anything or anyone while it tries to follow you. They had someone ride through “the woods” on my side of the auditorium and they dropped a fake tree at the drone – it missed it. Pretty spiffy!
Oakley announced a new integrated device on some *really* expensive sunglasses that keeps track of your training activities and then takes that data one step further and actually gives you coaching about pace, what routes you should do on your next training run, etc. “Radar Pace” from Oakley is effectively a personal coach that interprets all that data you’ve been tracking and helps you decide what to do with/about it. The athlete demoing it was a 3-time triathlon champion, so his next workout was a 15 mile run, with 1200 feet of climbing over 12 medium hills. Said Krzanich, “Thank God that’s customized for you!” Amen brother.
Then came New Balance who, after a brief history lesson of the company and announcing the creation of a new Digital Sport division, let us know that not only are they 3D printing shoes but they’re also working with Intel to develop the ability to take 3D scans of your feet and then custom print shoes molded to your exact needs. Oh, they’re also going to launch a wearable (smart watch) for holiday 2016 because … well, everybody else is doing it so why not us?
A company call Daqri was up next with their Smart Helmet, which started shipping today. Frankly I think this is what Microsoft’s HoloLens is going after for a business application. The demo is someone wearing the helmet in an industrial setting, with the device digitizing and recording analog dial readings, diagnosing problems, and suggesting issues for the wearer to go fix (and instructions on how to do it). Ikea should have these at the impulse buy stations right before the checkout line so you can get help putting that stuff together.
Next up was creativity.
I’m sorry, but I wasn’t impressed at all. AH Rahman was on stage to show how you could use Curie-enabled devices strapped to your hands and feet to make music. As a musician I can tell you the demo bombed – it was misfiring all over the place, or more accurately not firing when intended. We were promised he’d be back for more. Please no.
There was some weird video announcement about a partnership with the Recording Academy (The Grammy’s), Lady Gaga, and Intel that would be announced during the Grammy’s in February. Consider me uninterested. The teaser video left me more confused than inspired, and frankly seemed to be featuring Lady Gaga’s ego more than anything else. She’s an incredible singer, but I don’t get her act. Then again, I’ve long ago aged out of her target audience.
Also in the Creativity section (huh?) was a very cool Segway robot from ninebot. This was used at the beginning of the show too as a “hoverboard” kind of device. The big moment of the whole show is when the thing went from personal transportation device to robot. Arms were added. “Are those my arms? Awesome!” says the robot. Teehee. We shall call him HAL. We’ll all be obsolete, if not dead within 5 years. 2016 is the year our robot overlords start to take over, and it starts with a good joke so we think they’re funny and can’t hurt us. MARK MY WORDS, HUMANITY! SDK coming later this year, with a consumer product “after that.”
Next up was an announcement for a new TV show called America’s Greatest Makers, coming to TBS this Spring. Chris Hardwick was on the video and asked us all to admire his giant head on the screen, and reminded us to use hand sanitizer to prevent Nerd Flu while at CES. I like Chris, and I’m excited to see where this show goes. I think he’s hosting? AmericasGreatestMakers.com. Very cool.
Intel chose to spend about 15 minutes of Keynote “capital” on some very important topics, focusing on The Human Experience. I was disappointed to see some folks start ditching the session at this point, but to me I think this content was some of the most important for our industry and I can only hope that other companies (including mine – Microsoft) keep pushing the bar here.
Diversity. Intel made a big commitment to diversity in both hiring and retention last year for women and minorities. More importantly, they tied everybody’s pay to making sure they did just that – great idea! They exceeded their 40% goal for hiring (43%) and their retention rate was the same as “non-diverse employees” (white guys?). Kudos Intel! New goals will be announced for this year soon.
Harassment. Intel’s CEO took a very explicit stand against the turd brains on the Internet who use the anonymity of the ecosystem to empower them to be complete assholes. “There are real people out there behind ever comment, tweet, etc.,” he said. We need to make the Internet a “safer and more inclusive online experience for everyone.” Amen.
Lastly, Krzanich broached the touchy topic of “conflict metals”. Everything in tech relies on some pretty specific and rare metals and other materials that can only be found in certain places on Earth. Unfortunately, one of those places is the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo. Mining these minerals is one of the few industries left in that area, and there are some nasty people profiting from exploiting people and resources there. While some may consider a boycott of those goods the way to go (ala conflict diamonds), Intel has chosen to remain engaged in the trade there to keep at least some positive industry going for the people, while at the same time investing heavily in programs on the ground to help address the political and humanitarian issues. Whatever your opinion on the right course of action, kudos to Intel for not turning a blind eye. All Intel products will be “conflict free”, and there will be a certified logo to look for in the next few months (guessing they’re trying to push this across the industry). Intel is also supporting a documentary called Merci Congo, by Paul Friedman. It comes out in a few months, and we go to see part of the trailer. Definitely one to watch. Check out http://www.mercicongo.com/ (though currently the site appears down) or https://twitter.com/MerciCongo.
It was bad. Here’s a great summary: http://www.theverge.com/2016/1/6/10721532/intel-ces-2016-keynote-jai-ho
That’s all for me tonight! Off to the show tomorrow!