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Intel: Touchscreens, Voice Commands Coming To Ultrabooks

Rob Wright

Intel is hoping 2012 will be the year of the Ultrabook, and to drum up some excitement for its new brand, the chip maker is promising that future editions of its ultra-slim notebooks will feature both touchscreen capabilities as well as speech recognition and voice commands.

Intel showed off several Ultrabook prototypes during its press conference at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show Monday morning, including several that had touchscreen capability for both Windows 7 and the forthcoming Windows 8.

The company demonstrated how users can seamlessly switch from the keyboard to the touchscreen without any interruption or lag. Mooley Eden, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel's PC Client Group, said that while computer transistors have grown over 1 million percent in the last 30 years, the computing interface hasn't changed much at all -- until now.

Eden said that touchscreen-enabled Ultrabooks will deliver the best of both worlds for users that enjoy the ease of tablets but still want a traditional keyboard and trackpad. "People don't want to give up their keyboards," he said. "They want to enjoy both worlds."

While those prototypes were based on the traditional notebook form factor, Intel also showed off a "slider" Ultrabook in the style of a convertible tablet notebook that allows users to fold the laptop screen down in order to use the device as a tablet.

The final prototype on display, dubbed Nikiski, is an Ultrabook with a transparent trackpad panel on the notebook. The clear panel allows users to interact with the Ultrabook's touchscreen when the notebook is closed and -- mostly -- powered down. The Nikiski prototype keeps some basic functions running, such as calendar items, so that users can simply turn over the Ultrabook and tap the application tile to find out where their next CES meeting without having to open up the Ultrabook and turn it on. In addition to touchscreen capabilities, Intel also announced a partnership with Nuance, maker of Dragon speech recognition software, to make Ultrabooks voice-enabled.

No timetable was given on when speech recognition would be added to Ultrabooks, but the two companies said they plan to have the software available in eight major languages and with the ability to write e-mail and other documents as well as launch and use certain applications with voice commands.

Lastly, Eden said Intel will introduce gesture recognition to Ultrabooks in the near future. The company demonstrated an Ultrabook prototype with a gesture recognition-enabled camera that reacts to users hand movements. "This is going to be a totally new world of gesture recognition," Eden said.

Intel didn't say when it would introduce these touchscreen Ultrabook prototypes, or even which OEMs will be making them, but Eden did say that the chip maker has more than 75 Ultrabook models in its pipeline.

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