Intel to set up visual-computing lab in Europe

The chipmaker will spend $12m to create a visual-computing research centre in Germany that will develop enterprise applications that look and feel real
Written by Sally Whittle, Contributor

Intel has teamed up with the University of Saarland, Germany, to create a visual-computing research centre in Europe.

The new centre will collaborate with Intel's tera-research programme, which explores how multiple computing cores can be used to produce higher-performance computing and more-realistic graphics. Working with leading academics in the sector, Intel hopes to develop faster, more accurate and more realistic applications for use in industries such as financial services, oil and gas exploration, and medical imaging.

Intel said in its announcement on Tuesday that it will invest $12m (£7.9m) in the Intel Visual Computing Institute over the next five years, making this the company's largest European university investment.

The Institute will meet the demands of customers who want to invest in cutting-edge graphic applications, such as spatial audio and realistic 3D modelling, Joe Schutz, director of microprocessor and programming research at Intel, told ZDNet UK on Wednesday.

"This isn't something that can be done with a linear extension of current hardware. To deliver this kind of functionality and to accelerate the rate of technology development, we need to work with experts, and we've had a long-standing relationship with the university for many years," he said.

The partnership will help Intel compete with rival chipmaker AMD, which purchased graphics specialist ATI in 2006, says Clive Longbottom, a research director at Quocirca. However, Longbottom expects Intel to focus on visual computing at a server level, rather than a desktop level. "AMD and ATI are definitely about better graphic representations on the desktop, but I expect to see Intel using servers to take on some of the number crunching required for high-end visual computing applications," he said.

Visual computing involves processing huge amounts of data to create sophisticated graphical representations of information. For example, oil and gas exploration companies will detonate explosives on the sea bed and use hundreds of sensors to record details of the reverberations generated. This data can then be used to create 3D maps, which allow companies to identify the best position for new drilling sites.

"That kind of process involves days of number crunching, and that time costs the companies millions of dollars. It's an area where improvements could have a huge financial impact on certain industries," said Longbottom.

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