LAS VEGAS — Intel showed off a variety of gadgets at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday, but perhaps none so stunning as a 360-degree interactive touchscreen video running smoothly on its new Atom processor for smartphones.
The high-def video of a roller coaster ride, which a viewer could physically manipulate, spinning the camera around in every direction, was demoed on the CES showroom floor, running on an Atom-powered smartphone prototype built from the ground up by Intel. Check my quick video of the action here (360 video starts around 1 min into the video):
And Intel is serious about getting the experience into the hands of consumers soon, too.
During Intel’s keynote on Tuesday, CEO Paul Otellini rocked the smartphone industry boat by announcing partnerships with Motorola and Lenovo. Both of those partners will produce smartphones and tablets in 2012 using Intel’s Atom processor Z2460 platform, formerly codenamed “Medfield.”
“The best of Intel computing is coming to smartphones,” Otellini said in a prepared statement. “Our efforts with Lenovo and Motorola Mobility will help to establish Intel processors in smartphones and provide a solid foundation from which to build in 2012 and into the future.”
The first fruit of those agreements, the Lenovo K800 smartphone, will be released in the second quarter in China, with other countries to follow, though when it will come to the U.S. remains to be seen.
There’s been a lot of anticipation and skepticism from industry-watchers surrounding Intel’s late-entry into the booming smartphone business, especially as it previously tried to develop a smartphone processor two years ago (“Moorestown”), which never took off, hampered by poor battery life and physical size constraints.
Intel was also stung by Apple’s reported rejection of its Moorestown processor, and so, unsurprisingly, has run into the open arms of Google Android (Ice Cream Sandwich) as the de-facto operating system on its new phones and tablets with Lenovo and Motorola. Intel also said that Atom will power Windows 8 tablets, demonstrating one during Tuesday’s keynote (no word on when that one will be available yet, either, unfortunately).
It’s not a stretch to say that Intel is pinning all of its mobile fortunes on Atom Z2460.
Though there’s been lots of talk about the company’s Ultrabooks — a line of 20-plus razor-thin Windows laptops shamelessly ripped-off the Apple Macbook Air — and although Intel showed off numerous other promising technologies at the show, it was the smartphones in particular that were really a big draw for myself and other reporters in attendance.
Intel’s presenter connected the prototype phone to a high-def TV to show off the phone’s ability to play 1080p video, and began the presentation. Using the smartphone as a touchscreen controller, Intel’s presenter spun the camera around freely, zooming in and out as the coaster plunged down the tracks.
“You’ll see there’s now slowdown, no choppiness, no lag,” Intel’s presenter said, “The only downside to it is that some people get a bit [motion] sick watching it.”
Intel worked with innovative Canadian firm Immersive Media to develop the 360-degree videos specifically for its new smartphone platform. The presenter promised that Intel would show additional 360 degree videos later in the week.
It was hard to argue with the results. Not to beat a dead horse here, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of my former employer, News Corporation’s iPad news publication The Daily, which launched almost a year ago in February boasting interactive, 360-degree touchscreen news photos. Intel seems to have leapfrogged that technology — shrinking it to palm size and offering it even in a playing video file.
Immersive Media, which also has offices in Texas, in November 2011 launched an iPhone and iPad app called “Im360,”, which offers similar experience to the Intel Atom presentation at CES, but at substantially lower resolution. That app hasn’t received many downloads yet, and the single public review on the Apple App Store page is not flattering, either, reporting installation problems on the iPad 2.
That said, Immersive Media itself has been pleasantly surprised at how well its 360-degree interactive video technology works on the Atom platform.
“We’ve been working with Intel for the past couple months to design 360 videos for its Ultrabooks and Medfield lines,” said Immersive Media President and CEO Myles McGovern, in an exclusive interview with TPM.
“It’s a very powerful chip and we’ve seen fantastic performance, we’re really quite impressed,” McGovern gushed.
McGovern said that although the Intel video’s shown at CES were running an an app similar to its “Im360” for iOS, the Intet Atom chip offered “three times the resolution and the performance.”
The real question is just how much space on a phone that particular file takes up. “The file sizes are huge,” according to Boy Genius Report, although that was made in reference to the Ultrabook version of the 360 videos. McGovern told us that Medfield started with “very large files,” 6000 x 4800 and 3000 x 2400, but had managed to get it down to 1280 x 1024.
However, the Intel smartphone app in particular offers the ability for users to download the content to the device or stream it, potentially reducing space issues. And McGovern promised that was only the beginning of what his company had in store.
“Part of our intent is to deliver not only video on demand, but streaming live, 360-degree content to those devices, too,” McGovern told TPM.
Already, Immersive Media has been used to cover live sporting events including the CBC program Hockey Night in Canada, allowing viewers to get live, streaming 360-videos of the action on the ice using their computers. McGovern said that many more live events were on the way for 2012, so stay tuned.