Place a laptop on a table, and it'll automatically start charging. No wires needed, no need to carry a power brick. That's how Intel views wireless charging for laptops, which could become a reality next year. Intel wants to make wireless chargers as easy to find as a Wi-Fi signal, and wants to bring the technology to cafes, restaurants, airports and other public places so laptops can be recharged without power adapters. The first laptops with wireless charging could come out next year, and Intel has shown a few prototypes laptop being recharged on a table.
Intel is backing the Rezence magnetic resonance wireless charging technology, promoted by the Alliance for Wireless Power, or A4WP. The power flow will initially be limited, enough to wirelessly recharge ultraportables and hybrids. Plans call for increased power output to recharge mainstream laptops. But getting the technology to public places and entertainment spots could take some years. Some cafes and restaurants already provide wireless charging bases for tablets and smartphones, and are interested in adding laptops to the mix.
It may also become possible to connect laptops wirelessly to displays, which could eliminate expensive HDMI or DisplayPort display cables. A wireless display will start working as soon as a laptop is within range. Intel envisions a laptop ultimately being able to connect to multiple wireless monitors, which could be useful in classrooms or meetings. One laptop will be able to stream to monitors on multiple desks. Intel is pushing the initial idea through a "smart dock" that connects a laptop to a wireless monitor.
From its origin as a dull white box, the desktop has become a hub of creativity and imagination, with technologies like depth-sensing cameras and 3D printing spinning off a variety of innovations. One example is HP's Sprout, which looks like a normal all-in-one PC, but packs the latest imaging and collaboration technology. At the base of Sprout is a giant touch pad called a Touch Mat, which is a dual-purpose digital canvas on which images can be scanned and also manipulated. A 3D depth-sensing camera lodged in Sprout scans the objects placed on the Touch Mat -- for example, if a coffee mug is placed on the canvas, the 3D camera will scan it to depth and size. A projector on top of Sprout can then reflect the scanned image of a coffee mug on the Touch Mat, which artists can then manipulate by touching the digital canvas. HP says the scanning and manipulation could be useful for creating objects that could be 3D-printed. But at $1,899, Sprout is considered an expensive experimental desktop.
Soon, your body could log you into an e-mail account. By the end of this year, Intel will be providing software so users can log in to websites via biometric authentication. It serves two purposes: biometric authentication is relatively reliable and secure, and users won't have to remember dozens of passwords for different sites. Apple already uses biometric authentication to authorize credit card payments through its Apple Pay service, and Intel wants to bring a similar concept to PCs. Expect the fingerprint reader to become more useful starting next year.
Computers will become more perceptual with a combination of gesture, voice and visual recognition technologies being installed in PCs. Starting next year, 2D cameras in PCs will be replaced by Intel's RealSense 3D cameras, which will be able to recognize objects and even measure distances between items. The camera's Kinect-like gesture recognition capabilities will also make PC gaming hands free and interactive. Intel has lofty goals, aiming to combine visual, voice and sound input to recognize human moods and reading habits. While those won't happen in the coming year, the 3D camera will certainly make Skype chats more fun.
Computers will get thinner as PC makers introduce laptops that are as thin as 15 millimeters. Computers will offer longer battery life with the new Broadwell and Skylake processors from Intel and Carrizo chips from Advanced Micro Devices. New DDR4 memory will make applications and games run faster in desktops. Next year, Microsoft's Windows 10 OS will replace the controversial Windows 8. Expect the OS to take advantage of these new technologies.