We are living in an amazing time, but many of us seem to take it for granted. We have private spaceships (although they blow up more often than I’d like). Self-driving cars are on the road, even though we can’t buy them yet, and there are plans for a 12-mile-high inflatable building.
Granted, a number of us are kind of convinced it will end up looking like a giant version of the inflatable fan blown stick man that you often see outside of car dealerships. It kind of sounds like one of those ideas folks come up with when they’ve been partying too much.
The Intel Developer Forum kind of reminded me of a mini-World’s Fair this year, with three floors of ongoing entertainment and demonstrations. It was actually a ton of fun; it started with the new CEO giving a killer keynote and ended with my friend Genevieve Bell — Intel’s secret weapon futurist — talking about how makers are helping treat Ebola.
Following are some of the highlights and a look into our future.
Intel TV isn’t like Apple TV — I’m talking about an Intel TV show. Yep, Intel is funding a reality show contest with a prize of, wait for it, one million dollars. It sounds a little like American Idol, but it will be focused on makers. America’s Greatest Makers should do for geeks what American Idol did for a few artists: put them on the map.
It probably will have a little bit of Shark Tank in the judging, but we’ll see kids and adults from all over competing over who can build the coolest — and likely the most marketable — gadget. Were the decision up to me, I’d just focus on cool, forward-looking and entertaining. That would be a ton more fun, and the more practical inventions already have crowdfunding as a more reliable way to get lots of cash.
It will be interesting to see how Intel develops an invention taxonomy, though, because if the products get too diverse or too practical, the show might become confusing or boring.
3D Printers Everywhere
Almost everywhere at IDF you looked, there were 3D-printed objects scanned with Intel’s RealSense camera, which is moving from tablets to laptops. They ranged from robotic spiders that followed commands (and did kind of look like they wanted to rebel after being made to dance to music for hours) to a huge mother spider about the size of a small pony (clearly these folks didn’t watch Stargate), to robotic scarabs (they didn’t watch The Mummy either), to a pair of cool robotic owls (I don’t have a problem with Harry Potter).
The owls responded to tweets the inventor was concerned about — in this instance IDF and shark attacks. At this show, I would have picked killer robotic spiders or flesh-eating robotic scarabs, but that’s just me. If I were to get a vote, I’d vote for robotic puppies or kittens next year.
In any case, this just showcased what you could do with a few actuator lights and a controller. There were dancing armies of spiders and scarabs, and no one was bitten or eaten during the entire event — though Brian Krzanich did say, several times, that these robots wouldn’t end the world. Come to think of it, that didn’t mean Intel didn’t have upgraded models that weren’t being mentioned.
There was one station where you could get scanned and then printed in a block of laser-etched clear plastic. That was pretty amazing, and at several times during the event, the wait was more than three-hours long.
Collaboration Cancer Cloud
One of the most important announcements at the show was the formation of the Collaboration Cancer Cloud with the Oregon Health and Science University.
Cancer scares the hell out of me, because one out of two men and one out of three women will get it, and a lot of us won’t survive the experience. Right now there are cures that aren’t getting to people, because the cancer research centers’ massive databases aren’t connected or broadly searchable. The people who most need these massive storehouses of knowledge can’t access them.
The Collaboration Cancer Cloud, which will launch next year, initially will connect three of these large cancer centers. It is designed to connect all of them eventually. When it’s complete, we should be able to bring to bear the full power of our collective knowledge in this area, and far more of us will survive — maybe never even get — cancer.
Gaming Machines to Die For
Both Intel and Microsoft seemed to abandon the PC gaming market when the Xbox launched, and I personally thought it was a huge mistake — epic, actually. Well, the good news is both companies are reinvesting in it, and I saw the result of Intel’s renewed focus at IDF.
Intel showed off some amazing gaming rigs. One that was custom-built in Sacramento looked like a sculpture, and I got to talk to the guy who commissioned it. The labor cost alone was US$5,000 — and that was without any of the parts. Water-cooled using a Fiat radiator, it’s one of the most amazing machines I’ve ever seen.
There was an F1 driving simulator that I really wanted — the only problem was that puppy cost $84,000 (no, I didn’t add a zero — eighty four thousand dollars). That’s more than the price of a Jaguar V6S F-Type. But man, was it realistic.
It actually required that you use the same force to steer the car that a real F1 requires, and if you got your arms locked up it likely would break them if you hit a virtual wall — but man, was it cool! It had three huge 4K screens with actuators at all four corners and high-end interfaces. I was nearly drooling when I left the booth. My wife still won’t let me buy one, even after I suggested we could combine birthday and Christmas gifts.
One of the interesting little technologies at the show was Intel Unite — a little microcomputer that would connect to your laptop wirelessly, so that multiple people could collaborate during a presentation.
Schools apparently are going crazy for this thing, because it costs less and is easier to put in than an extended HDMI cable. At IDF, there always are a few little things like this that most folks miss.
There were smart glasses and goggles, smartwatches and smart wristbands, smart BMX bicycles and smart exercise machines, smart sensors and smart home controls. It really got to the point where everyplace I turned it seemed that Intel was showcasing yet one more device that would capture data, could adapt itself to individual use, and could improve one or more things we do for work, entertainment and exercise.
Folks were viewing, riding, playing with, and talking to most every type of thing I could think of, and it was a little daunting. The more stuff I saw, the smaller my virtual bank account got. It was kind of like wandering through a giant adult technology toy store. I really loved it.
Wrapping Up: A View of the Future
Genevieve Bell wrapped up the event nicely. Intel is moving to empower makers of all types with its tools, and with funding for things like the America’s Greatest Makers TV show.
There is a realization that Intel was created by some of the greatest makers who ever lived, and that there’s a revolution pushing innovation into homes and garages all over the world. Intel wants to be part of that movement and, at its heart, IDF this year was all about that. Makers rule!!
I joke around a lot, but one thing I don’t find funny at all is bullies and bullying. This can be kid to kid, adult to kid, or even adult to adult, and I think we need to do everything we can to protect the victims and stamp this out.
Stop Attack, a new app launched last week, instantly turns your phone into a device that will record a bully’s deeds. You can use it to capture the action instantly, to protect yourself or someone else, and possibly bring the bully to justice.
For a fee of $1 a year, your phone sends what it records to a secure cloud repository, so that even if the attacker takes or breaks your phone, at least part of the attack is in a permanent record.
The app is simple to set up and very quick to execute: Just tap on an icon, and suddenly what your smartphone sees and hears is captured for posterity and for law enforcement — even if it is the police you are capturing. A few years back I was attacked, and I wished for an app like this. As a result, the Stop Attack smartphone app is my product of the week.