Opinion: I have seen the future of computers

Dell’s XPS 13 2-1 device
Dell's XPS 13 2-1 packs a lot of processing power into a tiny device. Photo credit: Jane Dempster

OPINION: Tech companies are constantly hailing their latest release as a 'game-changer', but for once I might believe it.

Project Athena is the new science project from chip manufacturer Intel and looks like it could genuinely shake things up when it comes to computers.

Intel don't make the laptops - they leave that up to the computer companies like Dell or HP.

They instead run the top-secret programme that ensures laptop companies have at their disposal the biggest, most powerful hardware that lives up to expectations of consumers.

Computers in the Project Athena family will be certified by Intel, which is prioritising power, design and connectivity in the new laptops.

Project Athena devices need to have the latest-generation processor from Intel, which means more power. Now, you can proceed to checkout in all 50 Google Chrome tabs without fear of it crashing, which is great for the computer, but probably not as great for your wallet.

The new Project Athena laptops are quick to boot and will boast a wake time of less than a second. Paired with a minimum 16-hour battery life and the requirement that laptops charge four hours of battery life in less than 30 minutes, that makes for a lot of computer time.

For all you streamers and gamers, the new laptops are faster than light speed. All are packing Wifi-6, Gigabit LTE and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity promising wireless speeds of up to three times what we get now. Download a whole season of your favourite show in mere moments. Expect lag-free video game sessions. The bar has now been set.

But the real kicker for Project Athena is its artificial intelligence capabilities. When I think of AI, I have images of a rampant machine dedicated to eradicating humanity.

Thankfully, Skynet seems a lot more pleasant in real life.

Armed with deep learning software instead of launch codes, the new range of laptops can do everything from filtering out obnoxious background noise in conference calls to analysing massive amounts of data for small businesses. New far-field voice technology also allows your laptop to hear you from further away, making voice commands accessible wherever you are.

For many consumers, this will be their first real experience with the power of artificial intelligence, crammed into a laptop the size of an iPad.

Australian Olympic swimmer Cameron McEvoy
Australian Olympic swimmer Cameron McEvoy (right) says new artificial intelligence analyses his races faster and more accurately than traditional methods. Photo credit: Oskar Howell

It might not sound impressive, but once you've had a machine do your dirty work, there's no going back.

So the real question is: will they be worth it? When is it worth getting rid of that battered old laptop, and invest in something from the Project Athena line?

The best answer is, whenever it suits. The new range of laptops is priced from $1500. Laptops have a lifespan of around three to five years, meaning there's not much wrong with your current Macbook or Surface Pro at this stage.

The point of Project Athena isn't to worry about the future of technology, it's to let the future of technology worry about you.

Oskar Howell is a Wintec journalism student and was flown to Sydney by Intel to attend the company's Project Athena launch.

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