CES: Intel says get ready for the Personal Internet

Much like the music video changed radio and television, the Personal Internet is going to revolutionize the entertainment industry.

That was the message from Intel Corp. President and CEO Paul Otellini during his keynote speech tonight at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The Personal Internet, as he called it, isn’t about being able to seek out information when you need it. According to Otellini, it will be about the information coming to you, when you need and where you need it.

“We’re now in the midst of the largest opportunity to redefine consumer electronics and entertainment since the introduction of the television,” Otellini said. “Increasingly, computing and communications are coming together, bringing a new level of capability and intelligence to the Internet experience. The personal Internet of tomorrow will serve you, delivering the information you want, when you want it, how you want, wherever you are.”

To help make his point, Otellini showed off a handheld device that was part speech recognition, part language translator, part camera, part wireless Internet access and a good part travel guide. The device, which isn’t currently available, could translate street signs and restaurant menus from Mandarin to English. It also could do a real-time translation between two people speaking to each other in different languages.

“What we just saw was an example of the Internet bringing us information when we need it,” Otellini said of the demo.

The head of Intel then pointed out that doing real-time translations and accessing such huge databases will require significant processing power. And that, he added, is where Intel comes into play in this futuristic scenario. “That’s exactly what I will deliver in the next three to five years,” he said. “This demo will be possible in the not-so-distant future.”

Showing off one of the technologies Intel has been working on, Otellini gave what he called the first demonstration of the first system-on-a-chip (SOC) based on Intel architecture. He said the SOC, codenamed Canmore, is optimized for a new generation of media players and TVs. For instance, it’s designed to give users an Internet experience over their TVs.

Otellini said Canmore is expected to ship in the second half of 2008. “Packaging several important functions — such as computing, graphics and audio-video processing — into a single chip will help devices do more while taking up less space and energy,” he added.

To create the Personal Internet relatively soon, several pieces of the puzzle will need to quickly fall into place, according to Otellini. Wireless broadband infrastructure needs to be more broadly deployed to make high-speed Internet available everywhere. Search engines need to consider location, the device being used and context. And the industry will need much better user interfaces that can take into account the user’s facial expressions and gestures. On that front, he noted that the Nintendo Wii made great advancements, sensing users’ movements and enabling users to interact with it.

“We’re seeing an evolution to a more natural interface,” he said. “We need to move from searching for information to a world where information finds you proactively.”

Otellini also pointed out that social networking sites would also benefit from the Personal Internet. And to help him make his point, Steve Harwell, lead singer of the band Smash Mouth, joined him on stage to test out BigStage.com. The Web site, which is in beta testing, is designed to enable musicians from around the world connect, share music, write music together and even perform it together in real-time over the Internet.

The BigStage used technology from Organic Motion and Virtual Heroes to enable Harwell to sing on the CES stage in Vegas while his band mates played remotely, but their on-screen, lifelike avatars seemed all to be playing the song “All Star” in Harwell’s childhood garage.

“Personal Internet is not just about entertainment,” said Otellini after the demos wrapped up. “It will enable better medical care. Facilitate distance learning… You may argue over when this is going to happen but it’s inevitable. People are going to demand a seamless experience regardless of where they are or what device they’re using.”

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