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Rachel Metz

A View from Rachel Metz

Intel Really, Really Wants You to Wear a Computer

Intel is finally getting ready to ship a tiny computer that could help make wearable gadgets a lot sleeker.

  • January 6, 2016

At last year’s CES, Intel showed off Curie, an itty-bitty wearable computer that could fit into a button—literally, as CEO Brian Krzanich pulled a button off his blazer during his keynote speech and explained it contained a demo module. On Tuesday, during the world’s largest chip maker’s keynote speech at this year’s CES, Krzanich said Intel will start shipping the chip in the first quarter, and that it will cost less than $10.

Curie is a pretty big deal for wearable computers, as it combines in a small package technology like a low-energy Bluetooth radio, accelerometers and gyroscopes for sensing different types of physical activity, and the ability to run for what Intel describes as “extended periods” on a coin-sized battery. With it, there’s a lot of potential for shrinking devices like smart watches and jewelry, and bringing capabilities like fitness tracking to all kinds of clothing and accessories without bulking them up. And the cost of Curie suggests this may be done without adding a huge amount to the price tag.

Intel, at least, hopes this is the case, and to punctuate its expectation Krzanich shared the stage with a variety of people using Curie in different ways. Two BMX riders, for instance, had the sensors on their bike seats and handlebars; they performed jumps and spins that were tracked in real time on an on-stage display. And the computer has been built into a pair of Oakley sunglasses—also showed off on stage—that can talk, telling you how your workout is going and modifying it as you go through it; the glasses will be available later this year.

Yet while Intel may see sports as a great venue to show off how useful Curie can be, I’m interested in more everyday applications. How about fitting it into my regular glasses, which I spend a lot more time wearing than my sporty workout pair? Or a belt or ring? For me, those are places where wearable computers might really be useful.

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