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Rattner said that by becoming closely involved in academic research, Intel will encourage unexpected, new thinking and will avoid being overly-specific, so as not to preclude inventions and innovations from occurring. The centers will be funded for a fixed length of five years to give Intel the flexibility to address new areas of technology as they present themselves.
"We wanted to define a specific time for the center," he said. "At the end of those five years, we expect a review of the progress we've made and a determination of whether it makes sense to renew the center, continue on that track, or maybe create a new center maybe with different leadership and an agenda that reflects both the research environment and the business environment.
"We didn't want this to be an open-ended thing and then wake up one day and say, 'this isn't needed any longer.' This is consistent with the way academic research institutions are funded by government agencies," he said.
Research at each of the seven Intel Science and Technology Centers will be guided by a pair of principal investigators, one from Intel and one from the university. Jim Hurley, senior principal engineer at Intel Labs, will lead the project along with the chief scientist at the first ISTC, Stanford Professor Pat Hanrahan.
During Wednesday's conference call, Hanrahan described the center's vision for visual computing and the PC ecosystem in general. He said new platforms and rich, immersive user experiences are emerging while older, traditional devices such as laptops are being revolutionized with the introduction of more fluid interfaces.
Hanrahan said that the project began when Intel challenged the visual computing community to select for the project technology that offers the largest pay-off, the greatest effect on people's lives. He then outlined four areas of research that Intel believes meet those criteria.
"Because this is a fairly large project, they're giving out funding in much smaller parcels in much shorter time frame than in the past," Hanrahan said. "We're being encouraged to be more ambitious, which is going to lead to a lot of ideas that will be commercialized."
Hanrahan discussed plans for research focused on how to simulate people, human behavior, light, motion, and sound in order to create a complete immersive experience in real-time. Intel will focus on content creation that builds creative tools, allowing devices such as phones and cameras to create augmented reality and process information intelligently, he said.
Hanrahan also described plans to digitize cities and buildings, although he acknowledged that each of these goals requires a daunting amount of computer power, which in turn creates the problem of power-efficiency.