After having the best sleep I’ve had in a long time, in a rather classy hotel room at Shangri-La;
…. I headed down for a buffet breakfast. An abundance of new foods lead me to choose a bowl full of bite sized samplers, many of which I don’t know what they’re called or contain – but all were quite tasty:
After filling up, we loaded onto the bus to visit Lenovo Headquarters in Beijing. I had no idea what to expect inside, apart from visiting the ‘Future Center’ and seeing some products:
We were ushered through to the Future Center after using the fingerprint driven lockers (which seems like a much better idea than the old PIN style lockers), we had two volunteers have their face scanned in for a lot of the facial recognition systems we were about to see.
Those people’s faces were used to unlock a rather impressive silver ball structure, causing some of the balls to change colour. The faces were then used to get past security gates, again showing now accurate and quick facial recognition can be with real world use cases.
After some impressive visual displays, we were taken into Lenovo’s vision of what AI tech at home could look like. Some of the concepts were:
In the lounge, having a system that would give recommendations driven by AI and machine learning from news, weather, holiday destinations, movie and TV selections and shopping to display to you what you want without needing to select it in the first place – e.g. sitting down in the evening after dinner usually means you want a movie selection, so it will display that information first.
In the bedroom, monitoring your sleep and keeping a perfectly climatised environment, along with opening the blinds in the morning for natural sunlight.
In the kitchen, interfaces which can guide you through a cooking process from beginning to end – knowing what food you have and ordering more if needed, telling you what ingredients to add and how exactly to do each step.
And in the garage (ok it’s car related but I’m keeping the ‘home’ theme going) a car that unlocks with an app rather than a key, and more importantly, is connected to a network that controls the entire road experience – from finding the best route based on traffic, to knowing when pedestrians are crossing the road from intersection cameras and reporting back to the car rather than expecting onboard cameras to see all risks.
None of this is mind-blowing in itself and in isolation, but together this all builds a picture of what our lives could be in the very near future. AI and machine learning are buzzwords constantly thrown around these days, but seeing and understanding how these high level concepts can be applied in particular situations, and Lenovo’s vision of how they see it working is worth understanding. Of course Lenovo is not the only company working towards these goals, but one of the messages that came across is that Lenovo is working hard to build relationships with other vendors to achieve those goals – Lenovo are trying to build upon their specialities, and partner with other companies who have different specialities that can come together for an all encompassing solution.
After the eye-opening Future Center experience, we then entered through the next several rooms containing Lenovo hardware. First up was several office desk setups including Ultrawide screens, stand-up and sit down desks, and artist peripherals.
Next we entered an area containing gaming devices – from a gaming computer in a Star Trek USS Enterprise NCC-1701 case, to a water cooled computer in a bubble known as ‘Winbot’. There were several Legion branded laptops and desktops too.
The Virtual Reality units Lenovo is involved in were also on display; Star Wars and Marvel AR headsets, the Lenovo Mirage, and the Oculus Rift.
Then we had a look at the mobile options – both Lenovo branded phones which aren’t globally available, and Motorola which are (and Lenovo now owns). Some of the other less known products were shown here too – like electronic door locks, robot vaccuums and air humidifiers.
We then saw some of my favorite product line devices – the ‘Think’ series. The Thinkvision P44w – a 43.4″ ultrawide monitor caught my eye first, as it’s on my ‘love to have’ list. The small ThinkPlus Mini 45w power adapters were also there, which really looks like a great travel accessory to replace the standard laptop power brick we’re all used to. Of course all the latest ThinkPads, Yogas and other Lenovo laptops were on display too, as well as the ThinkVision M14 – a portable USB-C monitor that can be a secondary monitor for your laptop or tablet/mobile phone.
The tour kept going, and if you can’t tell already, this was probably the main highlight of the entire trip and I wish we’d had more time there. The next area was more server focused, with again a bunch more hardware laid out to look at. This included an enclosed datacentre amongst server hardware:
Finally for the Future Center we were able to see some of Lenovo’s ideas in action – an area that showcased how their technology can and is being used in the real world. Focuses included a learning environment where students could be monitored to see if they were sitting/standing, reading/listening, happy/neutral etc – things a teacher does already, but can glance at a screen to quickly identify what the entire room is doing rather than relying on their own visual check of everyone. Lenovo also have their foot in the door for medical solutions, and 3D rendering/virtual reality/engineering. It was good to see where Lenovo had found use cases for the ideas they had.
Next up was the ‘Unmanned Store’ – an actual working store in Lenovo, that lets staff use facial recognition paired with reading NFC (I assume) chips attached to supermarket supplies, letting someone go into the store, load up on what they want, and self check-out the items. It worked a heck of a lot better than I’ve seen the local supermarkets trying to let customers self-service, and I even got someone to buy me a warm Ovaltine drink :)
Even more stuff! We then went over to the Lenovo Reliability Labs where we saw staff working away on several things – vibration tests, sound tests (and going into a room with next to no echo is a great way to unnerve yourself), radio wave interference tests, and environmental tests. The environmental tests are performed by putting a device into a large oven like system, and they showed what happened to a screen at 150oC.
After lunch, even more tech treats were in store for us. We spoke to a few Lenovo employees who were talking about the product lines they looked after, which included William (who owns over 300 different ThinkPads – world record holder!) who brought in some nostalgic and weird devices from the history of ThinkPads. We also had a hands on with the new Legion laptops, and the Yoga S940 amongst others.
If that wasn’t enough for one day, we then visited the Summer Palace, and had another great dinner which as always, was presented on a Lazy Susan as we politely fought for access to the plates we wanted the most.
Here’s what I tweeted for this day of the trip – click through to see a bunch of observations and photos: