In a keynote appearance at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich discussed a range of wearable electronics he claimed would appear sometime this year.
Those electronics included “smart earbuds” capable of feeding biometric and fitness data to the user, a “smart headset” (codenamed “Jarvis,” perhaps after the digital butler in the “Iron Man” movies) that can act as a personal assistant to the wearer, and a small bowl that will wirelessly charge devices dropped inside it.
Jarvis is reminiscent of Google Glass, the augmented-reality eyeglasses that wearers can control via gesture and voice commands. Intel’s reference design includes a Bluetooth-enabled earpiece with battery, speaker, and microphones; in theory, the hardware and software can keep track of the wearer’s location and offer information (such as directions to a restaurant) at the appropriate time without interrupting.
Intel plans on working with Barneys New York, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and Opening Ceremony to develop wearable technologies that people with at least a modicum of taste won’t be embarrassed to wear. (This strategy mirrors the one recently developed by Apple, which has poached a number of fashion-world executives—including former Yves Saint Laurent CEO Paul Deneve—in order to (presumably) boost the aesthetics of its long-rumored wearable electronics.)
Intel has also launched a “Make It Wearable” challenge, which will ask innovators to figure out ways to make wearable electronics more palatable for mass consumption, by working on problems related to everything from battery life and security to aesthetics. The company plans on handing out $1.3 million in prizes to winners.
“Wearables are not everywhere today because they aren’t yet solving real problems and they aren’t yet integrated with our lifestyles,” Krzanich said. “We’re focused on addressing this engineering innovation challenge.”
If wearable electronics is the Next Big Thing, Intel (in conjunction with its partners) needs to make its presence there felt as quickly as possible. Although it dominated the traditional PC-chip market for a number of years, the company failed to move aggressively enough into the mobile device segment, which gave other processor-makers the chance to establish themselves in that category. Intel’s evidently determined to not make the same mistake with smart-watches and headsets.