Business, Hardware

Intel unveils its future at Research@Intel Day


Research@Intel Day is an annual event held at the Computer History Museum, displaying the best projects Intel has in store. This was the eighth time Intel has shown the selected media a wide range of projects beyond the company’s core business of making computer processors.

There were seventy-five booths with everything including mood application for your smartphone to help you cope with life. After you point to how you feel, the application can suggest yoga or breathing exercise to relax you. It might show you your favorite vacation pictures or the latest ultra-expensive go-fast cars at duPont Registry.

Another booth had a robotic hand that uses electrolocation to conform to the shape of an object before interacting with it. The robotic hand uses porpoise-like electrolocation to bounce electric fields off of objects and then, in real time, conforms the hand to that shape. They call this dynamic "Pre Touch," and it could prove useful for configuring robotics before they interact with objects without damaging them or missing the object completely. Intel first showed a prototype of their Seattle Labs robotic hand in 2007.

Intel's Robotics project.... an arm displaying human behavior.
Intel’s Robotics project…. an arm displaying human behavior.

Intel is spending lots of time and money on cracking the small device market with their Atom Architecture which was highlighted at the show. However, the Atom’s x86 derived architecture consumes more power than rivals, especially those from ARM. Presently ARM owns that small device market with over 12 billion CPU’s shipped. "Moorestown" is Intel’s next-generation of the Atom processor which boasts lower energy consumption requirements.

New power saving techniques should cut Atom power consumption in half.
New power saving techniques should cut Atom power consumption in half.

There wasn’t much new about Moorestown. It still isn’t shipping. Moorestown uses technology generally called system-on-a-chip (SOC) which combines many computer system elements onto a single processor, integrating graphics, and the memory controller. Earlier this year, Intel and TSMC agreed on a strategic alliance to put the Atom architecture into TSMC’s SOC designs.

Justin Rattner, Intel’s CTO, said that the Moorestown system they demoed cuts power consumption by 50 to 90 percent compared with the current "Menlow" model by using research versions of this power-saving technology.  Rattner said that production versions would see power savings of up to a factor of 50 with Moorestown compared to Menlow. Here at BSN*, we run some interesting benchmarks on the Menlow version of the Atom. Recently, the Intel-TSMC Alliance has bumped up against super aggressive moves by Global Foundries. BSN* has a trio of articles raising some serious questions about TSMC’s future. 

In April, Intel worked on their solid state drive (SSD) problems and appears to have fixed them. The first time we saw Intel pushing their SSD for servers was when they announced the Core i7 architecture. They said the server’s Core i7 CPU was so fast that you needed their SSD drive as a cache. 

At the show on Thursday, Matthew Eszenyi, a technology strategist, said that Intel created a variation of the ext3 file system Linux uses to store data on their SSD. The Intel file system checks the hard drive command requests and prioritizes the ones it judges to be high-priority data and organizes the data to be divided over a 12 drive system. He said that adding the SSD cache doubles the overall system speed, and using the prioritized data system doubles it again. Impressive claims that everyone will want to benchmark.

Intel has been the major force in bringing WiMAX to the world of broadband wireless. In one of the booths, they showed their latest research on how to increase throughput.  Vijay Kesavan, a research engineer, showed how they are getting 40 percent more capacity out of a WiMax networking station when handling voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls. The system creates group calls with similar characteristics so that call-control data can be shared across each group, rather than sent individually. 

Intel's Patrick P. Gelsinger discussing biometrics with the members of Intels Biometric research team.
Intel’s Patrick P. Gelsinger discussing biometrics with the members of Intels Biometric research team.

With more than seventy-five different booths we cannot cover them all in this article. Over the next several days, we will focus on more of Intel’s technology and compare the Intel approach to the ideas of their competitors.