CES doesn't officially open until today, but last night (Jan 5.), Intel, led by CEO Brian Krzanich, did its best to steal the show before it even started. Yet there wasn't a single CPU, laptop or desktop on stage for the entire two-hour keynote. Instead, Intel relied on its partnerships to show how its RealSense and Curie technologies can play roles in the lives of athletes, gamers, fashion aficionados, drone enthusiasts and hard-hat-wearing workers.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich on stage at CES 2016. Image: Henry T. Casey
This Secret Robot Runs on Intel RealSense
Well known for starting shows with the latest in gadgets, Krzanich rolled onto the keynote stage on a short Segway. An hour later, a single tap transformed that Segway into a robot assistant that used Intel's RealSense perceptual-computing technology to interact with its surroundings.
Produced by Intel, Xiaomi and NineBot (one of Xiaomi's portfolio companies), the Segway Robot can answer the door and use facial-recognition technology to identify visitors and seek your permission to let them in. Powered by an Intel Atom processor, this robotic butler is scheduled for sale in the second half of 2016.
Gamers can also make the most of RealSense, which let an Intel employee use a HP Spectre X2 and 3D-capture software to map Krzanich's face onto a Fallout 4 protagonist. Competitive gamer Stephanie "missharvey" Harvey came onstage to show how RealSense technology and a webcam can place a gamer's face and reactions — but not the room in the background — into the corner of a screen while live-streaming gameplay.
Making Our Future Drone Overlords Smarter
Intel revealed the Yuneec Typhoon H, a new drone powered by an Atom processor that also features RealSense. To prove that Yuneec featured the "world's most advanced collision-detection system in a commercial drone," Krzanich had it follow a mountain biker around a fake woodland area in the presentation room, complete with obstacles and a fake tree that crashed in front of the drone.
Image: Henry T. Casey
Krzanich followed that by stating that "no other commercial drone would have made it through the course unscathed," which we're not entirely sure about. The Yuneec will be available in the first half of 2016 for less than $2,000.
New Balance + Intel = New Balance Digital Sport
Krzanich welcomed New Balance President and CEO Rob DeMartini to the stage, and the two revealed a partnership intended to "better the lives of athletes everywhere": New Balance Digital Sport.
A New Partnership Begins. Image: Henry T. Casey
The first fruit of this partnership will be 3D-printed shoes, mapped with RealSense, coming in April to select stores in Boston. That first round of footwear won't be custom-built for the wearer, but DeMartini said that future shoes will be mapped to fit customers' feet and printed at home.
New Balance shoes will be getting built-in Intel sensors — likely the Curie — in the future. DeMartini closed by announcing that Intel and New Balance were collaborating on a smart watch for the 2016 holiday season. No other details, such as price, were given.
Intel's Augmented Reality Could Save Your Neck
The Daqri Smart Helmet sounds like something you'd buy on Bourbon Street to sip a fruity drink from the top of your head, but in fact, it's augmented-reality headgear for the workplace. Augmented-reality company Daqri partnered with Intel to redesign its workplace helmet from the ground up, and this latest version comes with a 6th-generation Core i7 processor and RealSense technology.
The point of view of the Smart Helmet user. Image: Henry T. Casey
The helmet was demonstrated in a representation of a boiler room, and the audience shared the perspective of a workman named Sam who was trying to fix the pipes. The Smart Helmet recognized a problematic valve, gave Sam step-by-step instructions to fix it, and then provided a Web link to order a replacement part.
The helmet also has thermal vision for identifying hot points that workers should definitely not touch. Daqri owner and CEO Brian Mullins said that the new helmet, which he called "the future of workplace safety," was already shipping to Daqri's customers.
MORE: What's Next for VR
The Curie: $10 Motion-Tracking Module, Real-Life Air Guitar, Coach and More
The Curie gets its close-up. Image: Henry T. Casey
The other featured Intel technology of the night was the teeny-tiny Curie motion-tracking module, which will cost $10 per unit and start shipping this quarter. The modules are so small that we had to capture their close-ups on the presentation monitor.
Award-winning composer AR Rahman performed with a full band, all members of which had Curie-enabled wristbands strapped to their wrists and ankles. The band members played the "Slumdog Millionaire" song "Jai Ho" by moving their arms and legs in rhythm. When Rahman began to create beats by bumping his fist in the air, Krzanich pointed out that the Curie has created the toy every teenager wants: an air guitar that actually works.
Intel has also partnered with sunglasses maker Oakley to make the Radar Pace exercise-coaching headset, which pumps an enthusiastic voice coming through the wearer's earbuds. The headset uses a Curie module to monitor workout pace, and grades performance against past achievements.
If you're going easy on yourself, the Radar Pace coach will set higher goals and standards. No price was revealed, but the headset should be available in late 2016.
RedBull Media House CTO Andreas Gall and a parkour-running athlete joined Krzanich on stage to show how athletes rigged to Curie monitors can be tracked in real time. Readouts on the screen behind the runner displayed his air time, rotations and speeds. ESPN President John Skipper, also on stage, said that we'll see this technology in use during the Winter X-Games beginning Jan. 28.
Using the extremely-game Krzanich as a prop, BMX bikers equipped with Curie sensors performed stunts over the Intel CEO's head. The modules transmitted the movements, speeds, impacts, spins and even the names of the tricks performed to the monitors around the auditorium.
Krzanich welcomed Chromat CEO Becca McCarren to the stage to show how Curie modules fit into smart clothing seen at a recent Fashion Week show. As one model walked across the stage in an Adrenaline dress, we were told that Curie sensors could tell if the wearer was experiencing an adrenaline surge. One the sensors noticed the change in body chemistry, the dress was supposed to adjust to take on an hourglass form.
As a second model walked the stage in an Aero sports bra, McCarren said that Curie sensors can identify perspiration, rapid breathing and changes in body heat. If any were noticed, shape-memory alloy would open vents in the fabric to cool down the wearer.