Death to strap-ons, says Intel, yet thrusts its little AI stick into us all

Behold, the neural network gizmo Chipzilla will quietly kill in two years, like its wearables

Intel, having accepted the inevitable, has dropped out of the wearables and fitness band game, and canned the teams working on that strap-on tech.

Now it's shifted its attention to the next thing it will presumably quickly lose interest in: a USB stick for running machine-learning workloads.

Having read between the lines over the past six months, you'd have been forgiven for assuming Chipzilla had given up on the wearables market. Since around 2015, Intel has been going bonkers for smartwatches, health trackers, drones, toys, and similar gizmos – yet it hasn't really talked about them in what feels like ages.

Last month, Intel killed off a bunch of chips that were supposed to the used in the embedded and low-end space. Last year, Intel rid itself of Basis, its fancy smartwatches.

The chip manufacturer had nothing to say this week when we asked it about the state of its so-called New Technologies Group, which oversaw the now-axed trendy tech. No positive comments. The final nail was hammered in the coffin yesterday when CNBC reported Intel had "laid off about 80 per cent of the team that made the Basis smartwatch in November, and has now eliminated the division entirely." Instead, the New Technologies Group will focus on the augmented reality fad, we're told.

The Basis recall was sparked by complaints that the armbands were overheating to the point of injuring wearers. Rather than address the issue and relaunch Basis, Intel opted to recall and shut down the brand.

The move is part of a more worrying trend for Chipzilla in its battle against the ARM world. In the latter's push into both the server and PC markets, Intel positioned its Atom line as the answer to ARM and a challenger for the embedded and wearable spaces.

Having admitted defeat in those areas, it can be argued that Intel is now very much on the retreat in its ARMs war. Chipzilla has not only failed to keep the upstart out of its prime markets, but has also fallen short in taking the fight to ARM's own home turf.

Meanwhile, Intel wants everyone to pay attention to a USB stick it claims is the next big thing in AI. The "Movidius Neural Compute Stick" claims to offer a complete AI solution in the form of a $79 thumb drive.

"The Myriad 2 VPU housed inside the Movidius Neural Compute Stick provides powerful, yet efficient performance – more than 100 gigaflops of performance within a 1W power envelope – to run real-time deep neural networks directly from the device,” said Movidious VP Remi El-Ouazzane.

"This enables a wide range of AI applications to be deployed offline."

Intel plans to make the drive available at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference in Hawaii later this month. We anticipate its demise in 2018. ®

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