This man hates cables.
We reported earlier that Intel wants to kill all cables, bringing wireless charging, data and more to the average PC. Despite Intel's bold claims on a short timeline for much of that technology (next year!), there's a ways to go before we see Rezence (wireless charging technology), WiGig (wireless peripherals connectivity) and WiDi (wireless display) become commonplace in our devices and everyday use; largely, that depends on Intel's many partners, who must make actual products using the tech.
In any case, we got an up-close look at both Rezence-powered wireless charging and 4K WiDi at IDF 2014.
WiDi is nothing new; it's been around for a few years, but clearly Intel sees it as part of its larger wireless-everything strategy. WiDi uses the Miracast standard and can wirelessly stream HD content from one enabled device to another, such as from your laptop to a projector or large TV.
WiDi certainly has some promise, and it was striking to see it working on a massive 4K display, but we did notice that as the image on the screen changed, there were some artifacts that would appear briefly. It's not quite as easy to see on a video, but it's notable in person.
The artifacts aren't terribly distracting—it's akin to what you get sometimes when streaming video content, for example—but it's certainly a less appealing service than watching a DVD or Blu-ray.
Further, building 4K-capable WiDi in mobile PCs can be quite handy, because it allows you to use that PC as a hub for all your content, with no cables. By 2016, Intel expects that some 300 million devices will have WiDi capabilities baked in, and for those that don't, you'll be able to add WiDi with a small, inexpensive (about $40) dongle.
Intel is pushing both consumer-facing WiDi and a business-oriented version, WiDi Pro.
Despite the name (and its inclusion in the WiFi Alliance), WiGig (802.11ad) isn't really some speedy evolution of WiFi; instead, the technology promises to deliver wireless connectivity between your PC and its many peripherals. It's a dock, of sorts.
WiGi demo at IDF 2014 keynote
"Peripherals" in this case means essentially anything you'd attach to your PC – not just your mouse and keyboard, but your display and even storage, too. In Intel's WiGig demo onstage at IDF, we saw that a laptop automatically (and for all we could tell, quite seamlessly) connected with a display, mouse and keyboard.
WiGig purports to offer triple the speed of current WiFi and should see emergence in the market as early as the first half of 2015.
Rezence wireless charging demo at IDF 2014
We also got a look at wireless charging powered by Rezence. Although Rezence has been kicking around for a while now, the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP), the industry group developing the technology, launched its Global Certification Program in January, and thus the last several months have included a great deal of testing. Presumably, we'll soon see that work come to fruition in the form of Real Things.
The killer feature of Rezence is that, unlike some other wireless charging technologies such as Qi, you don't have to worry about orienting your device in a certain way in a certain space; as long as your device is in range, it will charge.
We weren't able to peek at the actual coils that do the work, but we were told that the demo we were looking at was capable of around 18 watts. (Theoretically, though, Rezence can handle up to 50 watts.) Do note that as you add devices to be charged, the wattage will be spread out among them all; thus, you can't stack five laptops and smartphones on there and expect them to juice up quickly.
Another premiere feature of Rezence is that it works through relatively thick materials. In the case of this demo, that's a 2-inch-thick wood desk, but we're told that it will work through even thicker materials, including metal.
What that means is that consumers could buy a wireless charging station of some kind (assuming an OEM makes one) and mount it under a coffee table, nightstand, your work desk or other spot where you might drop your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
Today, devices are not equipped with the "receiver" that can connect to a Rezence charging station, but that's changing soon. In a session this week, Kirk Skaugen held up a Samsung smartphone case that's equipped with the proper technology, and Intel believes that many devices will soon ship with those capabilities baked in.
(The laugh of the day was when the demonstrator, Rahim, had just finished saying that people had been putting their phones and laptops on the charging table all week expecting a charge, and he said that he was constantly explaining that their devices weren't equipped with the technology yet—and immediately, a fellow walked up, placed his phone on the table, and waited in vain.)
In order for Rezence to become something we see in widespread use, it needs strong adoption by OEMs and businesses looking to put wireless charging solutions in consumer products in stores and restaurants. It's reasonable to expect some movement there soon, though, as the A4WP counts among its members industry bigs such as Dell, Deutsche Telekom, HTC, Lenovo, LG, Qualcomm, Samsung, SanDisk, SK Telecom and dozens more.
For now, we'll enjoy the promise Rezence holds – and the neat light-up board Intel was using to show it off.