The hidden gems of IDF 2014

The halls of Intel Developer Forum 2014 revealed many treasures: smart kegs, unannounced tablets, high-resolution multimonitor gaming rigs. Here's the coolest stuff we found.

idf14 kirk skaugen core m

Chips, NUCs and other gems

Intel’s Developer Forum 2014 was strangely muted. The company competed for attention with the Apple Watch and other announcements. Also, because Intel had announced its Broadwell technology just weeks before, the anticipation that accompanied many past IDF conferences simply wasn’t there.

That doesn’t mean IDF was a bust, however. Browsing the booths and tech sessions, there was a surprising amount of technology on stage—such as the Intel Core M chips held up by Intel exec Kirk Skaugen (left), or its successor, Skylake.

Stroll the halls with us for the hidden gems of the show.

IDF 12K gaming multimonitor
Mark Hachman

12K multimonitor gaming

Remember when a game running at a 1024x768 resolution was something special? A 2K display is impressive. And the new 4K monitors? Mind-blowing. So why not three?

Yep. Intel showed off a rig running—according to a booth representative—two Haswell-E processors: the 8-core, 16-thread 5960X, and the 6-core, 12-thread 5930K. Combined, the two powered a 12K demo of Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag, with three 4K monitors running side by side. Inside the box was a  true quad SLI setup using four Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Blacks, taking up a total of 40 PCI-E lanes. Which is a long-winded way of saying awesome.

Intel IDF half NUC Atom
Mark Hachman

NUC, meet the "half NUC"

Intel’s Next Units of Computing offer a tiny little take on desktop computing, squeezing a bare-bones PC inside something about as small as a package of ramen noodles. And yes, even a next-generation Broadwell chip. But if that’s too much, then consider a “half NUC.” With an Atom chip packed inside, this is for those who don’t want to pay extra for Intel’s next-gen Core chips, as cool as they might be

IDF video surveillance
Mark Hachman

Eye in the sky

Some of you may have been tempted to watch Eagle Eye, Shia LeBeouf’s take on a CCTV society run amok. But the future is here—and it’s advertised. Intel showed off a traffic analytics solution from an undisclosed partner that could track video of individuals walking down a street or in a parking lot—and apparently make guesses as to their gender and other personal information. Always watching, quietly judging...

IDF air sensors
Mark Hachman

Air sensors as squirrel food

Earlier this year, Intel began installing atmospheric sensors in London; Dublin, Ireland; and San Jose, California—the better to feed Intel's hungry data centers.

The plastic boxes mounted in or near Hyde Park in London ran into two unexpected problems: Insatiably curious squirrels pillaged the boxes, so the researchers began using metal chasses. For the boxes located too close to the street, everything not soldered down was jarred loose by the constant vibration. Squirrels: not exactly a problem that everyone plans for.

IDF iKeg
Mark Hachman

The iKeg

Who wouldn't want a keg that would signal you when empty, and automatically request a replacement after being tapped out? Such was the justification for the iKeg, which Intel showed off at its Developer Forum. It's research. Yeah.

IDF Dell Venue 8 7000
Mark Hachman

Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet makes RealSense real

IDF's celebrity moment occurred when Michael Dell introduced the Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet onstage. The device also features the first RealSense 3D camera integrated into a tablet.

Like the Microsoft Kinect, the RealSense's dual lenses let the camera see like our own two eyes do—calculating distance and depth. 

This 8-inch tablet and its full 2K display are lovely. Intel's developed apps that can "measure" something just by "looking" at it. If this is what we can expect from the next generation of tablets, sign us up.

idf plae
Mark Hachman

Kid and Plae

One of the companies that's going to use the RealSense technology is Plae, a manufacturer of custom children's footwear. Plae executives said they can use the RealSense camera technology to estimate foot size within just a few millimeters, so people may confidently buy shoes over the Internet after they've scanned their feet.

IDF Lenovo tablet
Mark Hachman

LenovoPad Tab S8, powered by Merrifield

Intel's next-generation Merrifield chip may not have a future in smartphones, but it can do just fine in a tablet. At IDF, Intel showed off several unreleased tablets powered by Merrifield. The first is this Lenovo tablet, encased in a colorful yellow plastic shell.

A label on the back identified this tablet as the Lenovo "Sparks," which may or may not be a code name.

Intel IDF Lenovo tablet specs
Mark Hachman

LenovoPad Tab S8 specs

We've included the "Settings" page on the Lenovo tablet, to provide a glimpse of what's inside.

IDF Asus tablet Intel app
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Intel Health app

Intel's clearly invested time in developing its own software to take advantage of its processors' capabilities. Remember, Intel has an entire software division within it, that it picked up from a company called Wind River a few years back. This Intel Health app doesn't look half bad.

Intel IDF one-time token
Mark Hachman

Intel's phone security technology

A form of Intel's Identity Protection Technology already appears in laptops, and now the company is moving it into smartphones and tablets. Normally, banks will ask customers to provide a second form of identifcation by issuing them a dongle, which provides a time-limited security code in addition to a password. Intel's technology uses the smartphone as the token, allowing the user simply to tap a code that's been sent to it to identify the user to a bank or shopping site.

Intel IDF object recognition
Mark Hachman

Intel's version of Amazon's Firefly

Object recognition is cutting-edge, whether it’s automatically sensing obstacles while driving or something a bit more recent, such as Amazon’s Firefly. But while Amazon’s technology tacitly encourages you to stock up on toilet paper and memory cards, Intel’s is much more prosaic: It matches images “seen” by your tablet or smartphone against a database of images. In this sense, it’s much more akin to Google Goggles, a technology that became little more than a curiosity. Will Intel’s object recognition do the same?

Intel IDF Edison
Mark Hachman

Intel's Edison chip

If wearables are the next big thing, then it's the "Edison" chip that Intel hopes will power them. At IDF, Intel said that its Edison chip was shipping. Edison, a member of Intel's embedded Quark family of chips, is tiny—about the size of a quarter, complete with motherboard. Intel hopes that "makers" will pay about $50 apiece for an Edison chip and development board, coming up with their own unique ideas, like...

synapse edison dress

Don't mess with the dress

This lovely, futuristic 'Synapse' mind-controlled dress is powered by Intel's Edison chip. Designed by Dutch designer Anouk Wipprecht, it's 3D-printed to fit the model's curves. The kicker, however, is that the dress responds to the cues of the wearer: If the dress senses that someone undesirable is approaching the wearer, it flashes a warning. 

Synapse, however, is warm milk compared to Wipprecht's spider dress, which unfolds menacingly at the wearer's command. Creepy!

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