BY Mike O’Sullivan – SAN FRANCISCO — High tech companies are busy developing the next generation of products that will help us drive our cars, do our shopping and even care for our children. High tech giant Intel showed reporters some experimental devices in San Francisco.
A vehicle mock-up shows a driver whose brain activity, monitored by head sensors, and eye movement, tracked by a dashboard camera, tell how alert he is at the wheel.
Intel Labs senior fellow Justin Rattner says devices like these will make driving safer.
“We’re not monitoring brain waves. We’re seeing how much of the brain is occupied in a given situation, how much of the brain is occupied when you’re driving your car, or when you’re driving and trying to send text messages,” said Rattner.
Which is unsafe at any speed, as Rattner points out, unless you’re in Google’s experimental self-driving car. Google is another company that is pushing the limits of the latest technology. It is testing autonomous vehicles on the roads of several American states, including California.
This technology is years away from general use. But even cars from Honda and other automakers are using sensors and cameras today to monitor traffic and warn drivers of dangerous situations.
Rattner points to an experimental Intel technology to link cars electronically so that the driver in the rear knows what the vehicle ahead of him is doing. When the front driver signals a turn or slows down, a dashboard indicator alerts the driver in the rear.
In future, we may not need to carry computers. We could project a virtual machine onto a table or other surface anywhere.
In this demonstration, one was projected onto the table from a controller hidden in a flower pot. Sensors read the movements of the hands, so the system needs no mouse or hand-held devices.
At the market, sensors and computer chips embedded in products could mesh with devices carried by shoppers – to help them locate the items they want and avoid those with ingredients such as peanuts, to which they may be allergic.
Cameras and sensors are already available to help parents watch their children. More advanced monitors will one day check the baby’s health and mood.
Security badges for a company’s workers could, in a few years, have built-in computers, like some on display here. A swipe of the badge brings up a tiny computer display.
And security is being enhanced and simplified, with face-recognition software instead of complicated passwords, says Paul Schmitz of Intel Labs. He says a simple device like a mobile phone could provide multiple levels of security, with face recognition software, and if needed, added but simple-to-use tiers of protection.
“And that could be in terms of voice, it could be in terms of a 3D facial scan so that you can make sure that it really is me and not somebody holding up a picture of me,” said Schmitz.
Schmitz says new forms of encryption will make high-tech systems harder to hack.
The key to these new devices and systems is learning what people want and devising solutions to provide that, says Justin Rattner. He says one thing is certain in the world of technology.
“It’s the steady advance of chip technology that makes all of these other devices and services possible,” he said.
Rattner says new technology brings new concerns about privacy and data protection, and that Intel takes that seriously. But, he adds, that growing computing capacity, used in imaginative ways, is already changing our lives and will change them more in the future.