With the computers of tomorrow, users will no longer have to input data. Powerful new software is going to enable computers and devices to figure out what information you need, and provide it without even having to be asked. And they will do so using cameras, sensors, and microphones that are capable of close-range hand and finger tracking, speech recognition, face analysis and 2D/3D object tracking.

It’s the next generation of Intel technology, designed to boost computing devices to new levels of capability and productivity. And according to an Intel spokesperson, much of this technology is being developed at the company’s Haifa development center.

The new approach, called “perceptual computing,” refers to equipping PCs, laptops, and other Intel-branded and partnered devices to become “context aware.” Instead of passively waiting for you to enter data and “teach” the device, a perceptual computing-equipped device will use its built in hardware and software to “learn” ways that make users’ lives easier.

To that end, Intel is offering developers a million dollars in prizes to come up with the software of tomorrow, in the Intel Perceptual Computing Challenge. The contest is open to one and all and will reward the developer/s who come up with the applications that take the best advantage of Intel’s new Perceptual Computing platform. The entries will be judged based on how perceptual an application is (i.e., how much does it utilize the sensors, cameras, etc.), how intuitive and easy to use the app is, how likely users are to want to adopt it, and other factors. Four top winners will get $20,000 each, with smaller prizes of $5,000 and $1,000 for lesser, but still good, efforts. Altogether, the company will be giving away a million dollars.

The perceptual computing vision was laid out in 2010 by Intel CTO Justin Rattner,at the 2010 Intel Developer Forum. “Imagine a device that uses a variety of sensory modalities to determine what you are doing at an instant, from being asleep in your bed to being out for a run with a friend,” Rattner said. “By combing hard sensor information such as where you are and the conditions around you combined with soft sensors such as your calendar, your social network and past preferences, future devices will constantly learn about who you are, how you live, work and play.

“As your devices learn about your life, they can begin to anticipate your needs. Imagine your PC advising you leave the house 10 minutes early for your next appointment due to a traffic tie-up on your way to work. Consider a ‘context aware’ remote control that instantly determines who is holding it and automatically selects the Smart TV preferences for that person. All this may sound like science fiction, but this is the promise of ‘context-aware’ computing and we can already demonstrate much of it in the lab.”

Over two years later, the technology has moved beyond the lab, and into a development kit (SDK) that Intel is offering developers to build applications that will take full advantage of the perceptual computing platform. Several weeks ago, Intel announced that it had fully integrated voice recognition into the SDK. And, developers can now order an interactive gesture camera (developed in part by Intel and sold by Creative) in order to test their perceptual apps.

Israel has long loomed large in the Intel universe, having been the main development site for many of Intel’s laptop processors; the Sandy Bridge processor, developed in Israel, was responsible for 40 percent of Intel’s sales worldwide in 2011. In return, Intel has been an important part of Israel’s tech success. The company has four design centers and two fabrication plants here, with Intel Israel’s largest private sector employer. About 8,000 workers are employed by Intel Israel, and taking into account the company’s ecosystem – partners, suppliers, support businesses – Intel is responsible for providing jobs to about one out of every 10 Israelis employed in the technology sector. And now, Intel’s Israel spokesperson said, Intel Israel is at the forefront of the perceptual computing effort. “Not all of it is being done here, but a lot of it is, and we’re very proud to have been chosen by Intel for this honor,” the spokesperson told The Times of Israel.

The computer world is changing, and Intel is changing as well – but the company plans to take Israel along for the ride. Mooly Eden, Intel corporate vice president and general manager of the PC client group, who has been with Intel since 1982, was recently appointed CEO of Intel Israel – and he also happens to be head of Intel’s Perceptual Computing unit. And in a speech at this year’s Intel Developer Forum, Intel Senior VP David Perlmutter – an Israeli who is among the top candidates to replace the Paul Otellini as CEO when the latter steps down next year – discussed the perceptual computing effort in depth, describing the “touchscreens, sensors, cameras and other things we are driving into small devices.” As Intel moves computing to a whole new level, Israel will be moving along with it.