Intel invests $100M in University research

Feb. 3, 2011, 3:02 a.m.

Intel will invest $100 million over the next five years on university research in the U.S. The new project aims to create roughly half a dozen Intel Science and Technology Centers (ISTC) on college campuses across the country, the first of which will be headquartered at Stanford.

These centers will be based on a new model that allows for researchers from the tech giant to collaborate more closely with academics, Intel announced Jan. 26. Computer science professor Pat Hanrahan will lead the Intel Science and Technology Center for Visual Computing (ISTC-VC). Research at this center will focus on new graphics heavy devices such as tablets, mobile phones and 3D displays.

According to Hanrahan, this type of investment is a natural development. Companies realize that “if they create a whole ecosystem of ideas, they all benefit from it,” he said.

He was adamant that programs such as this one would benefit the academic community. Stanford, in particular, is a location where the influence of Silicon Valley has created a “healthy, vibrant economic scene.”

While the center will be administered from the Farm—where eight faculty and 13 graduate students will work—research will also take place at eight more universities. In total, 30 faculty members and 50 graduate students will be spread around the University of Washington, Harvard, Princeton, Cornell and the University of California locations at Berkeley, Davis and Irvine.

Intel personnel will also act as researchers-in-residence at the center, said Hanrahan. He stressed that all of the technology will be open-source and no patents will be filed.

“Nvidia could use it,” he said, referring to the rival chipmaker that also sponsors a lot of research on the Farm. “I don’t think there’s any conflict…they [all] want to involve what’s happening in industry into the lab.”

In the spirit of maintaining an open door, opportunities for undergraduate students to participate will also be available, leveraging existing sources of funding.

The whole project will receive $2.5 million a year for the next five years, of which Stanford will receive around $1 million.

ISTC-VC will explore 16 different projects spread across four main themes: simulation, content creation, building graphics systems and computer vision.

For example, researchers will explore a wide range of simulations from fluid dynamics and light to the more mundane, like hair and cloth, and aim to make content creation more accessible.

“Right now Pixar can make content,” said Hanrahan. “We want to make it easy for everyone to make content.”

Other projects include interfaces that detect a user’s movements, similar to Microsoft Kinect, and 3D models that can recognize things like doors and light switches and make them operational.

The public will be able to follow all of the research as the ISTC-VC website is updated in the coming months.

Correction: In an earlier version of this article, The Daily incorrectly reported that ISTC will explore 16 different projects. It is ISTC-VC, specifically, that will work on these projects.

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