Remember your high school science fair? There was always that one project with sad-looking plants growing under different-colored lights?
Well, TechMan got to attend a science fair of the future recently, and there were no such pedestrian displays.
At the Intel Research Pittsburgh facility in the Collaborative Innovation Center on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University, researchers working for the chip maker teamed up with students and faculty from CMU, Pitt and UPMC to lift the veil on the future.
Just some of the projects on display:
A gesture-controlled game featured Tetris projected on the wall and a player controlling the falling blocks using gestures (wave arm left, blocks go left.) No Wii-like controller is needed. Using the power of parallel computing, the system can pick gesture out of a crowd, a complex task.
Haptic interfaces use touch to communicate with devices. Imagine a cell phone that could convey information just by touching it. On display was a device that can alter its squeezability, size and texture using software to convey information.
Computer recognition of human motion would allow a computer to pick out specific human actions on video, even in a crowd. There are obvious applications in detecting suspicious actions for security purposes.
Health will benefit in many ways from technology. One being explored at Intel is video recognition and reporting of fast food consumption. A big problem of obesity research is that people tend to lie about what they eat. But using a camera built into a necklace and triggered by swallowing, an accurate record could be made of food consumption and stored in a computer. Fast food is a good place to start because it has a consistent look and packaging that are easier for a computer to recognize.
A collaboration with ophthalmologists from UPMC is aimed at improving the early detection of glaucoma. Imaging the eye to detect the disease is made more difficult by the eyeball's constant movements. Researchers are working on a way to use computers to remove such "jitters" from the image.
Wireless networks are a good way of transferring files around the home and uploading them to and downloading them from the Internet. But as files grow larger due to high definition video and other uses, more bandwidth will be needed.
A project at Intel looks at making home wireless networks "neighborhood aware." A wireless network would know about other wireless networks nearby and whether they are being used at the moment. Therefore, if a home task required more bandwidth than is available, your network could "borrow" bandwidth from a neighbor's network that is not being used at the moment and vice versa. In the same way, your TiVo might be able to play recorded programs from your neighbor's TiVo.
Next to the personal robot that can open cabinet doors and remove items on command and the computer interface that reads brain activity produced when language is processed was the most mind-blowing display of all -- a way to make physical objects that could change shape and size on their own. Imagine a cell phone that would be small in your pocket, change to laptop size and "grow" a keyboard when you took it out of your pocket and assume the shape of an earphone when you held it up to your ear.
Tiny spheres containing chips would be programmed to sense their own position and that of their neighbors and move in relation to each other to alter the shape of an object made from them. It is a long way from being reality, but these scientists are working on it.
To learn more about these projects and the researchers doing them here in Pittsburgh, go to www.pittsburgh.intel-research.net.