Thursday, December 8, 2022

Intel and How AI is Transforming the PC

I was at Intel’s powerful Israel Development Centre (IDC) recently, and it is a fascinating place. Pat Gelsinger, Intel’s CEO, is positioning 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 geographies I have studied, and IDC has an unusually high level of women engineers in senior operational and development roles. One of the ways you effectively break a glass ceiling is to start at the top. And Gelsinger is using IDC as a template for change across Intel, which has significantly, based on my conversations with Intel employees, changed Intel’s culture for the better. In effect, IDC is leading Intel’s renaissance as the company positions for a far better future. 

This is having a significant impact on product direction, with a sharp focus on applied artificial intelligence (AI) at the edge. And the next generation of PCs that will make use of the related advancements will, as a result, be significantly improved in several ways. 

Here are some of the improvements that Intel’s IDC group shared during my visit: 

Better video conferencing

Intel showcased both improvements in camera resolution and auto-centering. When you are doing a video conference, the quality of the camera has a direct impact on how you are perceived by others. But we all have lighting, centering, focus, and connectivity issues. Using their AI capabilities, IDC demonstrated significant improvements over similar products in both auto-framing and resolution. 

Better video quality is not only critical for how you look, but for anything you are sharing. While we are still working in hybrid form, the ability to share what the PC’s camera sees with teammates without requiring a second camera — particularly when you are using a laptop and don’t have a separate camera — could be very important if you do that a lot.  

It is interesting to note that Intel went into video conferencing long ago and struggled with video quality. It is fascinating that Intel, decades later, has addressed this endemic issue, and it is working in some of the latest Intel-based products. 

Another interesting video conferencing use of AI is better use of the PC’s multiple radios. Not only will the future PC be able to connect to multiple Wi-Fi 6 connections, but also 5G simultaneously. So if you are in a meeting, it can aggregate the wireless connections and get a near optical cable level of performance. Should you lose all but one of those connections, the video will, after a short pause, continue without dropping the call.  

Improved privacy

Another use of AI that was demonstrated was the use of Wi-Fi as a proximity detector to better secure the privacy of your PC. 

Using Wi-Fi, the PC will be able to tell when you are close to the PC and when you leave, either waking up the PC when you sit down in front of it or suspending and securing the PC when you leave your desk. 

This reminded me that when I first started working in the tech industry, I used to go in and play pranks on my boss when he left his PC unsecured. My favorite prank was to load an app that caused the letters on his screen to increasingly fall off the screen, as if there was failing adhesive holding them on. Thinking back, I am surprised I did not get fired for doing that.

But in use, this is cool. When you approach, the PC starts to power up, and in a few seconds, it is ready to log you in. If you have used Microsoft Hello for facial recognition, you are back to work and functioning again without the risk that someone had access to your stuff while you were away. It is impressively quick. 

In the marketplace

While these camera capabilities have already appeared on some of Microsoft’s Surface products and HP’s Dragonfly line, most of these features will appear in the next generations of laptop and desktop PCs. 

And this is only the beginning, as Intel and others continue to develop AI capabilities that will become more prevalent in PCs, like being able to automatically author papers 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. 

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