I recently stayed at Intel’s mighty Israel Development Center (IDC) and it’s a fascinating place. Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger positions IDC as the heart of Intel to address long-term diversity issues.
Israel has a culture where women are treated more equally than most other regions I’ve studied, and IDC has an unusually high proportion of female engineers in senior operational and development positions. One way to effectively break a glass ceiling is to start at the top. And Gelsinger uses IDC as a blueprint for change at Intel, which I’ve found to have significantly changed Intel’s culture for the better, according to my conversations with Intel employees. In fact, IDC is leading Intel’s renaissance as the company positions itself for a far brighter future.
This has significant implications for product direction, with a strong focus on applied artificial intelligence (AI) on the sidelines. And as a result, the next generation of PCs that will take advantage of these advances will be vastly improved in a number of ways.
Here are some of the improvements that Intel’s IDC group shared during my visit:
Better video conferencing
Intel showed improvements in both camera resolution and auto-centering. In a video conference, the quality of the camera has a direct impact on how you are perceived by others. But we all have problems with lighting, centering, focus and connectivity. With its AI capabilities, IDC demonstrated significant improvements over similar products in both automatic image adjustment and resolution.
Better video quality isn’t just critical to how you look, but to everything you share. While we’re still working in hybrid form, the ability to share what the PC camera sees with teammates without the need for a second camera — especially if you’re using a laptop and don’t have a separate camera — could if you did do a lot.
It’s interesting to note that Intel got into video conferencing a long time ago and struggled with video quality. It’s fascinating that decades later, Intel has addressed this endemic problem and is working on some of the latest Intel-based products.
Another interesting use of AI for video conferencing is to make better use of the PC’s multiple radios. The future PC will not only be able to connect to multiple Wi-Fi 6 connections, but also to 5G simultaneously. So when you’re in a meeting, it can aggregate the wireless connections and achieve performance close to that of an optical cable. Should you lose all but one of these connections, the video will resume after a short pause without interrupting the call.
Another use of AI that was demonstrated was using Wi-Fi as a proximity detector to better protect your PC’s privacy.
With Wi-Fi, the PC can detect when you’re near the PC and when you’re away from it, either waking the PC up when you sit in front of it, or pausing and saving the PC when you leave your desk.
This reminded me that when I first started working in tech, I would always go in and prank my boss if he left his PC unsecured. My favorite prank was loading an app that caused the letters on his screen to progressively fall off the screen as if the glue wasn’t holding them. Looking back, I’m surprised I wasn’t fired for it.
But in use it’s cool. As you approach, the PC will boot up and be ready to log you in in a matter of seconds. If you’ve used Microsoft Hello for facial recognition, you can get back to work and functioning without the risk of someone having access to your stuff while you were away. It’s impressively fast.
On the marketplace
While these camera features were already available on some Microsoft Surface products and HP’s Dragonfly line, most of these features will appear in the next generations of laptops and desktops.
And that’s just the beginning, as Intel and others continue to develop AI capabilities that will become more prevalent in PCs, such as: automatically author’s work from outlines and Create unique images by simply describing what you want to create.
What Intel is doing is just the beginning of applied AI in PCs. What’s to come from Intel and other vendors will be even more amazing.