Intel Commits $100 Million To University Research

The first of six university-based R&D centers, led by Stanford, will focus on visual computing in tablets, smartphones, and other consumer tech.
The center led by Stanford University will focus on visual computing in personal computers, Internet-enabled televisions, and emerging mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones. Researchers will focus on several technology areas, such as the development of consumer-oriented software for building 3D models of places and buildings, including interiors and exteriors. Other areas include real-world simulation, so a person, for example, could build a virtual 3D character with human behaviors and natural motion. Such a character could be used for trying on clothes at a retail site.

The center also will work on technology that would enable computers to understand the movements and facial expressions of people for a more natural interaction with users. In addition, researchers will work on new types of cameras that can recognize objects and send the information for use in applications. The simplest example would be pointing a camera at a restaurant menu in a foreign language to get an immediate translation.

Visual computing and the ability to weave computers into people's lives more naturally are not new to Intel. The company launched last summer the Interaction and Experience Research division to develop technology for more seamless interaction between people and computers.

Stanford and the other participating universities are committing a total of 30 faculty and 50 graduate students to the center. Stanford professor Pat Hanrahan, who will lead the university's work, has high hopes for the outcome. "The return on this investment is going to be enormous," he said during the teleconference with Rattner.

Hanrahan is a big supporter of industry-funded research. Government-funded research tends to be more restrictive, while companies providing money tend to encourage "wild, way-out" research to push the envelope on what's possible, he said. "I think this is actually the best model than any other I have seen," Hanrahan said of the Intel-funded centers.