Chip giant Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) is in the middle of a significant turnaround, the merits of which are frequently debated. On one hand, critics argue the company is still too closely tethered to the personal computer. Since the future of computing is likely in smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices, Intel is in danger of becoming a technological relic.

On the other hand, Intel bulls contend that the company is making real progress in its promise to get its chips into tablets. And, Intel is making real headway in the Internet of Things, an exciting area of technology in which nearly all devices are connected. Mobile, home, and embedded devices could all be connected to the Internet to integrate computing abilities. This would allow all these connected devices to share data over the cloud.

One technological advancement Intel is making that isn't getting much attention is in robotics. In fact, Intel just unveiled a customizable 3-D printable robot. But before you get to thinking that this is all hype and no substance, there's an interesting connection to smartphones that make the Intel robot a story you should pay close attention to.

Meet Jimmy, the customizable robot
Intel's robot is called Jimmy, which is powered by the company's Edison chip. The robot will debut in the fall for $1,600. Along with the robot, customers will receive a packet that includes motors, batteries, and a set of customizable apps that will allow you to choose how you want the robot to act and look.

These robots will be 3-D printable, and as you've probably heard, 3-D printing is a highly publicized topic right now. The major 3-D printing companies such as 3D Systems Corp. (NYSE:DDD) have displayed enormous volatility over the past several months, as investors debate the viability of the technology.

Nevertheless, 3D Systems' financial performance implies that there's a real future for 3-D printing. The company recently raised its fiscal year revenue guidance at its 2014 Investor & Analyst Day. It projects as much as $735 million in current-year revenue, and 36% revenue growth next year to $1 billion in sales. In addition, management expects widening margins this year that will help keep its earnings per share guidance intact despite the fact the company recently conducted a secondary share offering.

A smartphone with legs?
That's how Intel futurist Brian Johnson described the technology in an recent interview with CNBC. This is Intel's "21st Century Robot Project," which the company presented at an event held in San Francisco, and the company eventually envisions robots having many of the same functions and features as a smartphone.

Specifically, Intel believes you could have the same applications on the robot that you have on your smartphone. And, future innovations would be up to developers, who now have a new platform on which to test out their ideas.

Now that Intel has debuted its 3-D printable robot, this could add credence to the 3-D printing industry in general. And, with the customizable options and its relationship to smartphones, Intel's robot could represent a true disruption in mobile devices.

Intel looks to the future
Intel has a lot of momentum working in its favor, which it made clear by recently increasing its revenue and margin outlooks for this year. It's developing several initiatives in its attempts to break away from the personal computer. Some of these include getting its chips into tablets, as well as making strides in the Internet of Things.

The newest development out of Intel involves robots, and could be a unique way to capitalize on both robotics and 3-D printing. Both areas represent very interesting new technologies that open up a world of new possibilities.

Intel's foray into robotics is just a small step, but as a shareholder it's nevertheless good to see the company making meaningful efforts in building businesses away from the personal computer.