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Intel's CEO, Brian Krzanich, gave the opening keynote to CES on Tuesday night in the Venetian. Intel has a problem with this sort of occasion. They build chips. The chips go into things that are sexy but the chips themselves are not sexy. So Brian talked about a lot of things that use Intel chips and nothing whatsoever about process technology, processor architecture, or any of the things that Intel really does day to day. Their new slogan, riffing on the old "Intel Inside" campaign, is "Experience What's Inside." It was the heart of the keynote, too, that people are putting experiences over products, the "sensification of computing" and computing being an extension of you.
The two specific products that were mentioned time and time again were Curie, a small hub for always-on wearable applications, and Realsense technology, which is software for vision processing where the Intel semiconductor technology is almost incidental. We all got given a Curie-based wristband from Pixmob with colored lights in that we got to use at various points during the keynote. Curie is about to start shipping this quarter and will cost less than $10.
Brian kicked off with a video of fireworks re-imagined the Intel way. With drones. Apparently it was a Guinness world record for the most drones being used at the same time. So instead of fireworks there were drones with colored light, all coming together at the end to make the Intel logo, accompanied by a live symphony orchestra. Neat.
John Skipper of ESPN came out on crutches (too much X-gaming or something) to show how they can put Curie-based sensors on athletes. Young audiences want real-time data on how high, how fast, how much rotation, and more, and a couple of Curie devices on a snowboard or a bike can give it. A couple of freestyle bikers gave a live demo with the data on the screen as they flew over the ramps (and Brian). Then Jason Paul, a "freerunner" for Red Bull, came up on video and before you could see what was happening, the end of the video turned out to be him coming live on stage with a series of handsprings.
Next up in the sports section were Oakley Radar Pace, sunglasses that contain a build-in trainer (who I suspect would get annoying really fast), New Balance working on smartwatches (and shoes of course), and Daqri making a next-generation hard hat with a head-up display that could show workers what to do and spot problems.
The next section was creativity. We'd already seen some of this in the pre-show where an artist used virtual reality to create some art, and a musician used several of the wristbands we all had to create some music without any instruments beyond his limbs. In the same vein, AR Rahman showed a similar piece of music with wristbands not just on his wrists but also his ankles. Then, on video but not live at CES unfortunately, was Lady Gaga (or Haus of Gaga), and they are also partnering with the Grammys next month to do something that I guess we'll have to wait to see.
The fashion angle was provided by an adrenaline dress that changed shape and a sports bra that opened vents if the wearer got overheated. But then on to the next thing. The whole keynote was a whirlwind tour of all sorts of things, some of which were only very loosely related to Intel in any way.
Brian moved on to makers. They had a Xiaomi ninebot which is a mixture of robotic technology and Segway technology (you can stand on it and move it like a Segway). Intel and TBS (I think) are starting a new reality show where they took 24 of the top makers and have them compete. I assume it will be a Survivor type of knockout. It's called "America's Greatest Makers" with a million dollar prize. The host will be Chris Hardwick. It may be a shot in the dark but I'm guessing that the things that the makers make will contain a good share of Intel chips.
It is clear that one of the things that is really big this year at CES (with most of a hall) are drones. Intel was not going to be left out and showed a drone that cost less than $2000 and could intelligently follow you. Live in the hall it followed a biker avoiding the trees in the imported mini-forest, and then showed something similar among sugaro cacti in Mexico.
Brian wrapped up by talking about Intel's program to hire more women and "under-represented" minorities (I guess that means not Asians) and how over 40% of Intel's hires in 2015 were in those classes. I'm still somewhat unconvinced that it is a good use of $300M since Silicon Valley has always seemed to me to be meritocratic in the extreme, hiring the best people without caring who they are. It is not necessarily a good thing to start caring more about who people are than whether they are the best.
And with that, Brian got off the stage, AR Rahman came back to lead the crowd with our Pixmob wristbands. The crowd loved the whole show, and who wouldn't? No boring talk about 14nm or EUV lithography. It was Intel goes to the X-games and the Grammys and New York Fashion Week.