The PC’s future according to Computex: Thin, light, wireless, gesture-controlled
By Agam Shah
Laptops about half the size of current models, along with faster, more power-efficient chips, improvements in wireless connectivity, and 3-D cameras in PCs were among the wares on display this week at Computex in Taipei.
What follows is a look at some of the expected advances in computers and technology featured at the show.
Thinner and lighter laptops and tablets
Starting later this year, users will get full PC performance in tablets that are thinner than the latest version of the iPad, and they will also be able to attach a paper-thin keyboard to turn tablets into laptops that are thinner than the MacBook Air.
Asus showed such a product with the Transformer T300 Chi dual-function device, which was 6.8 millimeters thick as a tablet. Intel showed its Llama Mountain reference design tablets, which were just 7.2 millimeters thick. They were powered by Intel’s latest Core M processor, announced at the show, not low-power Atom processors that require sacrificing performance for battery life.
More wireless computing
The headache of cable clutter is finally being addressed by Intel, which wants to make computers truly wire free starting in 2016.
The company is developing technologies so computers can wirelessly communicate with monitors, keyboards, mice and other peripherals, which could allow users to get rid of USB, HDMI or DisplayPort cables. Intel wants to make that possible through WiGig wireless technology, which is roughly three times faster than the current 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
The chip maker will implement WiGig modules in PCs and displays in the coming years, and in the past has also mentioned using WiGig in mobile devices as an alternative to Thunderbolt.
Intel is developing a range of technologies that could bring wireless recharging technologies to laptops. The chip maker has joined the A4WP group, which promotes magnetic-resonance wireless charging of laptops and tablets by placing them on charging stations. Laptop makers such as Lenovo, Dell and Fujitsu have joined the alliance, so wireless charging for laptops is not too far away.
USB could become a universal charger for all devices in a home, if the standards-setting organization USB Implementers Forum has its way. The USB spec can deliver 100 watts of power, so the potential is there.
Other technologies such as DockPort, which was on display at the show, also have the potential to charge PCs.
Gesture and recognition as well as Kinect-like interaction with PCs will become more common.
An Advanced Micro Devices demonstration featured “Angry Birds” and “Candy Crush” gameplay using hand gestures with a desktop, though the computer lagged in responding.
A webcam captured the hand movement and processed it through an algorithm, and the hand gesture was reflected in the games.
Intel wants to take that a step further through its Perceptual Computing effort, which allows more forms of sensory input to make human interactions with computers easier.
PCs with 3-D cameras, which will ship at the end of this year, will track movement, recognize human emotions and capture habits. Applications for this form of interaction through Intel’s software development kit are under development.
The end of DDR3 is near with upcoming DDR4 memory, which could be the last form of nonvolatile memory in computers.
Crucial and Adata showed DDR4 modules, and Intel is shipping gaming PCs and servers with DDR4 support in the third quarter.
DDR4 offers 50 percent more bandwidth and is 35 percent more power-efficient than previous memory. However, initial units of DDR4 memory could be expensive, but prices are likely to fall as adoption grows and more units ship.
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