Intel has provided the first hands-on demonstration of a laptop running its Light Peak technology, at the company's inaugural European research showcase here in Brussels.
Light Peak is an optical interconnect that can transfer data at 10Gbits/sec in both directions. Intel hopes Light Peak will one day replace the host of other PC interconnects, including USB, DisplayPort and HDMI.
Intel has fitted Light Peak into a regular USB cable, with optical fibres running alongside the electrical cabling. Intel provided a visual demonstration of how data is passed through the cable, by shining a torch into one end of the cable, with two little dots of light visible to the naked eye at the other end.
The demonstration laptop was sending two separate HD video streams to a nearby television screen, without any visible lag. The laptop includes a 12mm square chip that converts the optical light into electrical data that the computer understands. The technology hasn't yet been integrated into the screen, which explains the ugly black box sitting between the two devices.
Intel's chief technology officer, Justin Rattner, claimed that the bandwidth afforded by the optical technology is practically unlimited. "Light Peak begins at 10Gbits/sec, simultaneously in both directions," he said. "We expect to increase that speed dramatically. You'll see multiple displays being served by a single Light Peak connection. There's almost no limit to the bandwidth - fibres can carry trillions of bits per second".
Rattner said the technology will find its way into everything from home PCs to server farms. "The potential of that headroom will lead people to rethink the design of their systems," he said. "We've very, very excited about the potential of Light Peak."
An Intel spokesman said Light Peak hardware should start to become available to manufacturers by the end of this year.