Intel Outside: Finding Growth Outside Its Comfort Zone, From VR to Cars

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Intel Developer Forum Conference 2016 BMW autonomous self driving cars

The Intel brand was synonymous for years with the idea of “Intel Inside” and powering PCs. But lately, it’s thinking outside—the box—as it forges new partnerships and explores new territories such as virtual reality, the Internet of Things, autonomous cars and beyond.

As Intel reported on its quarterly earnings call on July 20th, the senior management team led by CEO Brian Krzanich is working on transforming Intel into “a company that powers the cloud and billions of smart connected devices.” As Krzanich continued, “We continue to focus on growth in line with this transformation, as evidenced by results in the data center, IoT and Programmable Solutions business this quarter.”

The company’s Internet of Things business is starting to take off, while it’s innovating in key areas like automation for the auto industry. Case in point, as Krzanich told analysts: “We announced our autonomous driving collaboration with BMW and Mobileye, marking a significant step for the auto industry as we work together to establish an industry standard open platform for autonomous driving. In addition, we are bringing Indian computing technology to power the next generation of BMW’s highly autonomous and fully autonomous products, from the door locks to the data center.”

The verticals that have been the strongest growing for Intel have been industrial and enterprise security video type applications. Longer-term growth sectors include retail and automotive, especially in automation and connected mobility, as the BMW deal shows.

The earnings call set the stage for the company’s developer event in San Francisco, where Intel talked up investments in virtual reality, the Internet of Things and cloud computing to drive growth and innovation.

During the opening keynote address of the 2016 Intel Developer Forum,  Krzanich outlined the company’s vision for the future of technology spanning virtual reality, autonomous driving, the industrial Internet, and the important role developers play in bringing this future to life. His speech, titled “Inventing the Future: The Power of a Smart and Connected World,” also touched on games, movies, drones, robots, smart cities and merged reality.

Subjects covered in the keynote included Project Alloy virtual reality headset; Microsoft’s Windows Holographic Shell (with Terry Myerson of Microsoft); Intel’s 3D replay technology; the Yuneec Typhoon H drone; Aero Platform; Euclid; RealSense 400; autonomous driving (with Elmar Frickenstein of BMW Group); Curie module; Knowledge Builder toolkit for Curie; and the Joule maker platform.

On the merged reality front, Krzanich introduced Project Alloy (in a video with Robin Thicke, above) as an open platform—launching in 2017—to leverage its RealSense technology to offer an all-in-one virtual solution. “We’re truly inventing a world we can’t experience today,” he commented, where “things from the real world can come into the virtual world, and vice versa.”

For example, integrated cameras let users interact with a virtual X-ray machine and see bones in their hands, or watch real-world items slip into a virtual world where a dollar bill “carves” a piece of gold into a unique shape. “Merged reality is about more natural ways of interacting with and manipulating virtual environments,” Krzanich stated. “[That liberates] you from the controllers and the nunchucks of today’s VR systems by immersing your hands – your real-life hands – into your simulated experiences.”

Intel estimates that by 2020, 50 billion connected devices will be generating more than two zettabytes (that’s one billion terabytes) of data traffic annually. Krzanich cited four themes in the journey forward: how Intel redefines the experience of computing; how visual intelligence is being integrated into future products; how Intel is making the cloud an unprecedented platform for innovation; and how the company is empowering the next generation of innovators.

On the automotive front, as part of a self-driving tech alliance with BMW and Mobileye, Krzanich told the developers and conference-goers that the “world of autonomous driving is what we believe is the next great platform for innovation” because cars need to see, interpret and act. BMW’s SVP of automated driving, Elmar Frickenstein, arrived onstage in a self-driving BMW i3 to discuss “the ultimate driving machine.” Once he got out, the car drove itself offstage.

Microsoft SVP Terry Myerson also joined Krzanich to discuss the “Windows Holographic experience” (below) that will be available next year. As for what other visionary new tech and partnerships the coming year may bring for Intel? Stay tuned.

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