Intel showed off a whole lot of PC ideas at Computex, in Taipei, in the hope of making computing interesting again. My colleague Amy Teng got a close look at the prototypes and demonstrations on display and reckons some of them could do well.
Adding more screens is an obvious shtick, and Intel showed off a book-like PC (Twin River) which provides to facing screens and no obvious use case. More targeted is Honeycomb Glacier, and concertinaed laptop which hides an additional screen in the hinge and is aimed at gamers. The ‘Glacier is nicely designed, and the utility of a second screen underneath the first is clear, but Amy reckons it’s also a gateway to eyeball interfacing.
Windows 10 has supported eyeball interfacing since 2017 – plug in a Tobii camera and just glancing at a window is enough to shift focus, but the technology hasn’t really caught on. ‘Glacier uses eyeball tracking to tell which screen has the user’s attention, and switches focus to that screen, which is more intuitive than having to stare at a specific window to maintain focus.
Ambient computing, meanwhile, is Intel’s pitch for a computer that stays switched on, and responds to voice commands, much like a mobile phone does. Amy reckons the technology is nice enough, but will likely struggle to prove its value when the mobile phone and smart speaker are already listening.
Project Athena should make a PC act more like a mobile phone – wake up in under a second, ready to browse the web in under two seconds from standby. But Athena it won’t be a consumer brand – it’s an aspirational collection of technologies that OEMs will have to bundle into a marketable product.
Which is, ultimately, Intel’s problem. The company’s customers are OEMs and ODMs who make products. Intel has to impress the end users, so they’ll ask PC manufacturers to incorporate all these new features and be willing to pay for them. That means marketing from one stage removed, which is why Intel has to launch such a range of new products in the hope that one or two of them will stick.
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