Live blog from Justin Rattner's R&D keynote at IDF


Peek in on us as we peek in on Intel's research and development horizons
— 11:17 AM on August 21, 2008

We're starting late but frantically live blogging from Justin Rattner's keynote at the Intel Develop Forum in San Francisco.  Read on as we relate what Intel's cooking up for five to 20 years down the road.

11:05AM: Speech opens with video of Ray Kurzweil talking about the singularity, setting theme for the speech.

11:10AM: Dr. Mike Garner, manager, Emerging Materials group comes onstage.

Rattner: What happens beyond 32nm?

Garner:  New materials and new structures such as the tri-gate transistor.

Tri-gate gives you higher speed, lower leakage, potentially higher density and lower variability in devices.

Other materials such as gallium arsenide could allow electrons to move much faster.  Higher speed, lower energy.

What about when CMOS won't scale anymore?

Possibly moving beyond binary logic, things that have multiple states.

Carbon nanotubes have very high speeds, also have spin functions. 

This is a very exciting time for materials, working to develop the next big thing.  And Garner's out.

11:17AM: Now on to photons, silicon photonics.  Photons move almost losslessly, require very little energy.

Brian Koch from UC Santa Barbara comes out to talk photonics.  Working on a hybrid silicon laser.  Gets light into a silicon waveguide. 

New version has integrated mirrors on edge of device. Have one running a demo.  Lots of equipment on a bench, scope, screens, electronics.

Laser mech is about 1mm long.  Data coming out at 3.2Gbps.  Directly modulating the laser.  But we want to go a lot faster than that.  Recently demoed it running at 40Gbps.  It's sending out about 8mW of power, which could go hundreds of miles over fiber.  Could build much lower power chip-to-chip.

We can tune the laser, select the wavelength.  Build an array on chip and combine multiple wavelengths to get a terabit.

11:23AM: Jan Rabaey from UC Santa Barbara is now onstage to talk about wireless stuff. 

In 10 years, will be about 1,000 radios per person.  Everything will have connectivity in it.

Holds up a miniature wireless node between thumb and forefinger.

Rattner:  Here's my radio.  This one is much smaller, scavenges power from the environment.

Jan: Mine is solar.

Dueling radios. :)

Problems: wavelengths, energy, reliability.  How would you design a new wireless network today?  Some ideas. 

-Connectivity brokerage.  Trade and allocate spectrum dynamically.  To make it work, need cognitive radio, collaboration.

Cognitive radio: Today, you get spectrum from the FCC, are stuck.  Intelligent radio could sense spectrum, choose something available in the area.  Requires some changes, of course.  Radio becomes a sensor.

Collabrative radio: Today, wireless radios fight each other, use a central tower or base.  If radios could work together, you become more effective.  Could hop from one radio to the next and use less energy.  Have to rethink some ideas.

Rattner: Is the gov't supporting some of this?

Yes, will take time, but FCC is looking into this, as are the big companies in this space.

And he's done.

11:30AM: What if we could transmit power wirelessly like we do information?  Here's an example.  Alanson Sample of Intel is out to talk about his research.  Also grad student U. of Washington.

Setup on stage, transmitter on one side, receiver on the other with a light bulb attached.  Big coils on it.

This is not like conductive coupling, more efficient.

Have a signal generator and an amplifier.

Transferring about 60W at 75% efficiency at about 2 ft.

Moving around the receiver and it keeps working.

Hot damn.

Could put this into a laptop or wireless USB device, charge them wirelessly.

 11:34AM: Robots!

Kickass, both robots and lasers. I knew it.  Now we need cyborg chicks in spandex.

Dave and Siddhartha from Intel here to talk about their robot.  Placed first in a competition to have robot navigate an urban setting.

We want our robots to be able to interact in physical environments well.

Demo time.  It's Herb!  Robot on wheels with a big arm on top.  Cheesy synthesized voice.

Herb is going to pick up a mug.  He has a model of a mug and is looking at the one on the table. Is figuring out grasp to use safely.  Got one and put it into his side.  Now grabbing another.

Key is to execute this at human speeds, is a focus of our research. 

Herb disembowels Dave!

 

Nah.

11:39AM: Josh Smith from Intel Seattle is going to talk more about robotic grasping.  He invented a Honda car seat that prevents airbag from deplying in bad situations.

Josh brought another robot.  Base with an arm.  Uses electric field pre-touch.  Fish use this sense in their environment.  Arm w/sensor is tracking an apple.  More cheesy synthesized voices.  Now grabs his arm, doesn't crush it.

Hands apple to Rattner.

Actually moves safely and organically.  Yow.  Talking about building this into Herb to combine tech.

11:43AM: How do we communicate at very high bandwidth?   Tan Le of Emotiv Systems is here to talk about using our brains to control machines.

Sadly, no spandex.

Le: Explosion of content is becoming difficult to navigate.  But interpersonal communication is rich, easy interaction.  Computing communication should move toward this kind of interaction.

Has a headset that..   well, cyborg element: check.

Similar to the OCZ headband, I guess.  Dude's controlling a demo.  It detects when he makes a face.  Moving a rock with his thought, or so she says.  Sky color reflects his mood.  Uses an array of sensors on his scalp.

Having some trouble with it.   But he managed to move a rock virtual across a virtual bridge.

Headset will be selling in a couple of months.

11:48AM: Last demo, programmable matter.  Talking about Crichton book Prey.

Video time.  Shape programmable material that uses semiconductor tech to move around in 3D, reshape itself dynamically.

Jason Campell from Intel Research in Pittsburgh.  Sporting a frizzy ponytail.  Sweet!

Has some prototypes.  They're fairly large, like a shot glasss.  Magnets around their perimeter govern their relationships.

Working on a tube that's 1mm across and 10mm long.  They can roll around each other to resize.  Will have these soon.

Now showing silicon dioxide hemispheres built in a fab. Small glass hemispheres, they're, uh, size of a grain of sand, maybe less.

Good initial size for this is a tenth of a millimeter, then we can shrink over time.

Could use these for 3D visualization in medicine.  Could replace your cell phone with something that changes shapes, so it turns into a keyboard and screen for typing, fold into something very small to drop into your pocket.  Since you can control their appearance, you can make a display.  When you're done, maybe it morphs into a bracelet you put on your wrist.

11:58AM: Rattner: the singularity is near!  Video time.

Intel "predict future technologies" contest involving kids worldwide.  What will the next 40 years bring?  Apparently, pure cheese.

Rattner: See you all in the future.  And we're finished!

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