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It's Back To The Future At Intel - InternetNews.
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It's Back To The Future At Intel

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Intel today showed off some of the projects from its research labs around the world that could be coming soon to a store, hospital or street near you.

Many of these projects have no planned release date which is one issue Intel's chief technology officer Justin Rattner, chief technology officer at Intel is trying to rectify. "There was a concern we weren't harvesting all of the technologies from research that we could have," he told a gathering of reporters during today's event. "You're not going to get 100 percent [of projects to market] but if you can go from 30 percent to 50 percent, that would be good."

One of the tactics Intel is using is making research and development spend a little more time together. In the past, a research project might be considered ready to exit the lab and go into product development for release, but there would be a long gap between research and productizing, "and it became a bridge too far," said Rattner.

Instant Diagnosis

Intel's Israeli researchers showed off one project publicly for the first time. The Intel Biotech Chip promises to give near-instant diagnosis of medical conditions instead of hours or days waiting for lab results to come back.

The device is a chip with biomolecules on it. These biomolecules react with antibodies in the blood, and each kind of antibody has a different reaction. "What we detect is the interaction that occurs only when an antigen triggers an antibody response," Moran Horesh, a hardware engineer at Intel's Jerusalem facility explained.

Each antibody response has its own electrical current, so a diagnosis is made based on the change in current by the antibody reaction. This can be done literally in seconds, as soon as a blood drop hits the sensors, because the captured molecules on the Intel chip immediately sense the blood.

There were two devices on display, one the size of a four-port router, the other about the side of two or three USB thumb drives. Both connect to a PC via a USB port to provide their results. Horesh said the chip could eventually be modified to detect almost any antibody, bacteria or virus, so it could be used for testing food, water, chemical pollution, or any other sample.

Son of Stanley

Of the projects on display, one will definitely see the light of day this year if not as a commercial product. Intel, along with Google, is co-sponsoring the Stanford University team in the DARPA Urban Challenge.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, is a federal agency that develops new weapons for the military. It sponsored two events called the DARPA Grand Challenge, where self-driving cars were to wind their way through the California desert with no human control.

The first, in 2004, was a spectacular failure, with none of the vehicles making it more than seven miles of the 142 mile course. In 2005, the teams did far better. A Stanford team led by robotics professor Sebastian Thrun won the 142-mile race through the desert with a heavily modified Volkswagon Touareg named "Stanley."

This year's challenge takes place on November 3 in an urban setting in an unnamed city. Thrun will once again be leading a team of Stanford students, with more than just a little help from Intel, Google and Volkswagon. Stanley has gone into retirement to be replaced with Junior, a modified, diesel-powered Volkswagon Passat.

Junior has many more sensors and lasers to navigate the environment and avoid obstacles. In addition to avoiding the sidewalks, the DARPA Urban Challenge will also throw some moving objects at the vehicles to see how well they dodge. Junior has four times the computing power as Stanley but still uses less power, according to Intel researcher Scott Ettinger.

"We need to do a lot better job of perception of moving objects," he told internetnews.com. "Before, it was just a matter of finding a road to run on."

Looking Down On You

In another room, Intel had a room full of devices similar to Junior, in that they all relied on sensors for input instead of humans. One handheld display used Google Earth, a magnetometer and an accelerometer to rotate and tilt the image.

As you moved around with the display device with a five-inch screen, Google Earth would rotate, and as you moved, your position on the map would move. If you tilted the device up, it would tilt to the 3D view.

While it needs Google Maps loaded to do the rendering, the actual GPS determination was done by the built-in magnetometer, so no cell phone or Wi-Fi connectivity was needed. So long as the info from Google Maps was available, it could show your position.

Intel researchers say this technology could easily be scaled down to fit on a cell phone some day, so a cell phone could offer full GPS without requiring a satellite connection.

Another input device was a pedometer on steroids. Many people have taken to wearing pedometers to measure how many steps they take in the course of a day, with the goal of 10,000 steps per day to achieve weight loss.

But pedometers have problems, and not just in their accuracy. They don't take into account walking, standing, going up stairs, bicycling or using a stairmaster, all different grades of exercise. So Intel's whipped up a smart pedometer that knows just what kind of activity you are doing and give a better measure of the amount of energy you exert in one day.