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Media Coverage

IDF 2010: The changing phases of computing

By Damian Koh
Sep 14 2010

SAN FRANCISCO--Intel has morphed from a silicon chip-maker back in 2000 to one which offers a slew of computing solutions, from services to software and platforms. Instead of talking about how computing has changed over the years, president and CEO Paul Otellini pointed how the rapid growth of PCs and proliferation of smart devices have led to the transformation of the company during the Intel Developer Forum opening keynote.

People want to "move seamlessly and effortlessly between devices" and the company's vision is to "create a continuum of personal computing experiences around the Intel architecture that provides consistency and interoperability between these devices".

"Everything that's connected seamlessly should be able to compute locally and up in the cloud," Otellini said to the audience in an hour-long keynote at the company's marquee event.

The essential elements for this change, Otellini noted, are the three pillars of computing: Energy-efficient performance built on Moore's Law, Internet connectivity and security. The latter two are set to be bolstered with the planned acquisitions of Infineon's wireless solutions business, Texas Instrument's cable modem business and McAfee, which would plug the gaps in the Santa Clara-based company and also address the smart-device market.

The second generation of Intel Core processors

At the heart of these initiatives is the upcoming second generation Intel Core processor family (codenamed Sandy Bridge). Otellini spared no effort in showcasing its capabilities in numerous demonstrations.

Based on 32-nanometer technology and second-generation high-k metal gate transistors, which reduce power leakage by a factor of 10, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group David (Dadi) Perlmutter said that this "represents the biggest advance in computing performance and capabilities over any previous generation".

For the end-user, this means faster processing, scalable features, better battery life with new visual experiences thrown in for good measure.

To drive home the message, Otellini demonstrated the difference (or the lack thereof) between the processor's graphics and a discrete graphics on Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty. Intel's integrated solution could even record, in real-time, a high-definition video of the gameplay for sharing on social-networking sites. According to Otellini, PCs powered by Sandy Bridge will launch in early 2011.

Also demoed was Google TV on a Sony Internet TV powered by the Intel Atom CE 4100 processor in a living room environment. With the Logitech Revue settop box and remote-control accessories, users can get a rich Internet experience on the TV based on the Google Android platform.

The demo was "interrupted" midway due to updates on a secret "project X", where Otellini showed how the Intel Core vPro processor supports 256-bit encryption built into the hardware. This is shown in a high-definition video conference using the Vidyo software. In the demo, the real-time decryption and encryption of the three live video streams were virtually unnoticeable. This will be available in the second half of 2011.

Rounding up the show-and-tell is the Intel Wireless Display (WiDi) on a prototype tablet with an Intel Atom processor. The technology, which is based on the Wi-Fi standard, lets users send videos, pictures, music from their laptops to TVs without leaving the armchair.

Not forgetting to address developers, Otellini said that the proliferation of smart devices is just picking up and software is increasingly critical for product development. He added that Intel's common architecture lets developers reuse their software and shorten their go-to-market time from the PC to the continuum.

Sandy Bridge for compute continuum

Delivering the second keynote this morning was Perlmutter, who said that the daily computing experience has evolved from text to more sophisticated data types. This, in turn, leads to the rise of intuitive computing. From the mouse to touch interface, Perlmutter envisioned the interaction to be similar to how humans interact naturally.

To illustrate, he demoed a real-time 3D gesture tracking software by GestureTek to browse music and pictures, as well as driving a car in an off-the-shelf racing game using only bare hands. The reason why this is now possible and not 10 years ago is that prices of 3D cameras have dropped along with the increase in processor speed.

He went on to talk about how consumers are looking for the advanced capabilities available to mainstream businesses. These include real-time, high-quality computing and, ultimately, a seamless experience that's responsive, connected, visual and efficient. To deliver that requires the upcoming Sandy Bridge platform, which is the main focus of the Fall IDF.

Like Otellini, Perlmutter, too, had a slew of demos.

First up was a photo program that processes high dynamic range pictures into 3D models.

Next was the video encoding of a 1080p high-definition source file. The second-generation core with dedicated media processing capabilities blazed through it in seconds.

Sandy Bridge also supports Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX), which delivers improved performance, rich functionality and the ability to better manage, rearrange and sort data. At the same time, it brings down power usage and improve floating point performance. During a demo of an interior design application, the second generation core showed a 2x throughput over a non-AVX processor.

Continuing on the instruction capabilities of AVX, Perlmutter used video motion tracking with a security application. In the demo, a camera tracks the number of people entering and leaving a room with a "video trip wire". It was also able to detect when a particular object has been removed and, in the case of the demo, an "executive donut" left unattended was taken by someone it's not intended for.

The real-time value of video analytics includes:

  • Face detection
  • Vehicle flow counting
  • People flow counting
  • Loitering detection
  • Virtual fence
  • Missing and left object detection
  • Car license plate recognition
  • Flame detection

Finally, wrapping up the second series of show-and-tell was Sixense, a new platform that shows what smart sensors and high performance can deliver. The Razer Sixense controller provides the user with an absolute, one-to-one positional tracking feature in a fluid 3D user interface. This could be deployed as a 3D navigational control on a 3D TV or in wearable technology.

"What you used to think about the PC is not true anymore. The views of yesterday are becoming available today," Perlmutter said.

Intel's role, Perlmutter added, is as an enabler and give opportunities for developers to build great solutions.

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GestureTek technologies have international patent protection. U.S. patents include: 5,534,917 (Video Gesture Control Motion Detection);
7,058,204 (Multiple Camera Control System, Point to Control Base Patent); 7,421,093 (Multiple Camera Tracking System for Interfacing With an Application);
7,227,526 (Stereo Camera Control, 3D-Vision Image Control System); 7,379,563 (Two Handed Movement Tracker Tracking Bi-Manual Movements);
7,379,566 (Optical Flow-Based Tilt Sensor For Phone Tilt Control); 7,389,591 (Phone Tilt for Typing & Menus/Orientation-Sensitive Signal Output);
7,430,312 (Five Camera 3D Face Capture).

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