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CEO of Intel Dons ‘Smart’ Shirt; Shows Off Robot

28 May, 2014

According to Douglas MacMillan and Don Clark (Digits tech news from WSJ), they report that:
Intel might have missed out on smartphones and tablets, but its chief executive is showing off evidence the chip maker is jumping on newer trends–like wearable computing and robotics.  Brian Krzanich turned up at the Code Conference wearing a “smart” shirt packed with sensors, to measure heart rate and other vital signs for the likes of bikers and joggers.

He also showed off Jimmy, a white robot designed to walk, talk and dance, and discussed plans for a consumer robot-making kit, priced at $1,600.

The context for such new initiatives is the fact that Intel–the company that once helped undercut makers of big computers with chips for low-cost PCs–did not realize the disruption presented by tablets, a market dominated by chip designs licensed from ARM Holdings.

“We missed the tablet. We missed that transition,” said Krzanich, during an on-stage interview Wednesday morning.

Krzanich, who took the CEO job a year ago, said he is not giving up on tablets while giving more details about previously announced plans to focus on newer markets. He has set a goal of selling chips for 40 million tablets this year.

To aid that quest, Intel announced on Tuesday an unusual deal with the Chinese chip maker Fuzhou Rockchip Electronics to create Intel-branded chips for use in entry-level tablets running Google’s Android operating system.

Krzanich, a self-described tinkerer, said Jimmy was made in two weeks using open-source software. It is powered by a Intel PC-class  processor.

For the robot kit Intel plans to offer, Intel will use Edison, a smaller and less expensive computer on a chip designed for new-wave devices associated with what Silicon Valley calls the Internet of Things.

“Robots are coming,” Krzanich said, “like it or not.”

The shirt Krzanich discussed was developed with the help of a company called AiQ, and will be available this summer, he said. It is battery-powered.

“Right now we think you want to take the battery out before you wash it,” he said, adding that standing in the rain should not be a problem. “We can build devices where you can go into the water.”

Intel does not make sensors itself at the moment, preferring to stick to the chips that perform calculations on data generated by such components.

But that could change, Krzanich said. “We are buying the intellectual property and we are just now going through the determination of what do we want to build inside, he said. “We will build some sensors.”

Touching on other topics, Krzanich said its relations remain good with rivals Google and Microsoft, its longtime partner in PCs–whose CEO Satya Nadella spoke Tuesday night at the Code Conference, and took the job in February.

“We have probably talked on the phone or met every  month since,” Krzanich said.

The Code Conference is organized by the online publication Re/code.

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