Is Intel shifting its focus from wearables to AR instead?

20 Jul 2017

Image: Zapp2Photo/Shutterstock

Is Intel ditching health wearables in favour of AR?

Chip giant Intel is understood to be shifting its focus away from wearables such as fitness trackers, and instead towards opportunities in augmented reality (AR).

CNBC reported that Intel has been distancing itself from the wearables business and has axed 80pc of the Basis group, a company it acquired in 2014. In November, TechCrunch also reported that Intel was beginning to step back from wearables in a big way, possibly even exiting the area.

The changes are expected to have an impact on Intel’s New Devices Group and the New Technologies Group (NTG). CNBC, citing sources, said that the NTG is now focusing on AR.

Designed in Ireland

Intel Curie module

Intel’s Curie SoC, named after Marie Curie. Image: Intel

Intel continues to advertise its Curie chip for connected internet of things (IoT) devices as well as partnerships with watch brands such as Tag Heuer, New Balance and Oakley.

The button-sized Curie chip at the heart of Intel’s wearables was actually designed in Ireland. The team designed the Intel Curie module that powered the Genuino 101 development board, which was unveiled in October 2015 at the Maker Faire in Rome.

Amid much fanfare at the CES event in Las Vegas in January 2016, the Curie chip was at the heart of a raft of IoT partnerships forged by Intel with ESPN, Red Bull Media and several other brands aiming to integrate the chip into clothing and wearable devices to track athletes’ performance.

Intel has not officially commented on whether it has decided to leave the wearables space – indeed, the breakthrough Curie chip could yet have uses in a myriad of other applications in the IoT and maker space.

However, there are signs that Intel – which employs around 4,000 people in Ireland – has been steadily shifting its focus from personal PC devices toward cloud and IoT technologies.

Last year, Intel acquired Irish firm Movidius, maker of a powerful machine-vision chip technology capable of powering AI in cutting-edge applications. Movidius’ technology is used in the latest DJI Spark drones to enable the devices to utilise face recognition, understand gestures and follow users.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years