Intel’s Biggest Virtual Launch: Tiger Lake Unveiled Amid COVID-19

When Intel launches a major new chip, Gregory Bryant, executive vice president and general manager of the Client Computing Group, is accustomed to hitting his mark on a tech industry event stage in Europe, Asia or the U.S. and looking out over a sea of faces. At key moments, hundreds of smartphones pop up to photograph, live blog or tweet the proceedings.

But for his recent keynote address in San Rafael, California, the scene was utterly different.

When Bryant pulled an 11th Gen Intel® Core™ processor from his pocket to launch Intel’s newest and highest-performing laptop chip, there were precisely 12 people silently facing him in a darkened room. As he held the chip aloft, Bryant smiled broadly. There was no applause.

‘Extended Reality’ Now a Reality

Intel’s launch of its “Tiger Lake” processor was by far the company’s biggest virtual event since the global COVID-19 pandemic halted large in-person gatherings and added social distancing measures. And it was the industry’s first to be produced on a sophisticated extended reality — or xR — stage.

At Intrepid Studios, a production firm north of San Francisco, Bryant and his executive teammates relied neither on traditional PowerPoint slides nor on old-style “green screens” of the kind local TV weather people often use. Instead, they stood on an LED stage floor surrounded by more than 60 feet of 4K wrap-around LED-video walls that — combined with Hollywood-caliber cameras and lighting — created the highest-resolution xR environment in the world.

As Bryant and other Intel leaders Karen Walker, Chris Walker and Boyd Phelps presented on the stage – alongside display tables, laptops or other physical objects – they melded seamlessly into the virtual backgrounds, rendered in real time by the Unreal content engine. Disney has used similar xR tech recently to produce “The Mandalorian,” as have singers Katy Perry and Alicia Keyes.

Large Virtual Crowd, Positive Feedback

For the Intel launch, there were a dozen producers and camera, light and sound people in the room for the pre-recording. But when Intel released the 11th Gen Intel Core virtual event online less than a week later, the audience numbered more than 20,000, with press, analysts, customers, partners and company employees from around the globe.

The cost of the event was roughly on par with an in-person one.

Feedback from attendees, said Jill Leithner, Intel’s Executive Event Productions manager, was “overwhelmingly positive … everyone is looking for online events to be even more engaging and interactive, which challenges our traditional ways of production. This is why we’re exploring innovations in production technology such as the xR stage.”

Leithner said the pandemic has given Intel events leaders the chance to fundamentally rethink what presentations are, and what they can be. Working virtually, she said, “forces us to think, decide and plan earlier. We are literally making a mini-movie. This requires more time for testing, shooting, editing and quality control.”

 

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