Nokia, Intel Announce 3-D-Geared Mobile Research Center

Nokia, Intel and the University of Oulu have opened the newest brand of Intel Labs Europe, which will be dedicated to researching compelling new mobile user experiences-particularly in 3-D.

A new partnership between Intel and Nokia is conjuring up images of "Star Wars"-type technology.

Always wished that your mobile phone could project a 3-D hologram of the person you're speaking with? The high-tech messaging scenario made famous by Princess Leia could be an area of research at the Intel and Nokia Joint Innovation Center, the pair suggested in their announcement of the facility's official opening Aug. 24.

The newest member of Intel Labs Europe, the center, created in conjunction with Finland's University of Oulu, will employ about two dozen research and development professionals and focus on creating compelling mobile user experiences that leverage the capabilities of mobile devices - particularly those pertaining to 3-D.

In February, Nokia and Intel together introduced the open-source mobile operating platform MeeGo. In a statement on the research center, the pair described MeeGo as being just the right flexible platform for the development of 3-D experiences on mobile devices.

Justin Rattner, Intel's CTO and director of Intel Labs, said in an Aug. 24 statement that the University of Oulu's "focus on future telecommunications solutions, as well as electronics and photonics, made it the perfect location for the Intel and Nokia Joint Innovation Center."

Nokia CTO Rich Green said the new joint laboratory "draws on the Oulu research community's 3-D interface expertise, and over time will lay down some important foundations for future mobile experiences."

During an Aug. 23 call with media and analysts, executives from the two companies - self-described as the No. 1 semiconductor company and the No. 1 handset company - as well as the Center for Internet Excellence at the university, said a confluence of events are driving the project. These include increasing user experiences and interactions to fuel innovation; the proliferation of high-bandwidth Internet around the world; and mobile computing devices with capabilities that were inconceivable just three or four years ago.

The project is scheduled to run for three years, and possible outcomes could include not only advances in gaming, but location-based services and enterprise applications, for example, for training purposes. It's also hoped that the trend of consumers becoming "prosumers," and interacting more directly with each other, could be encouraged. And again, the three have committed that any findings or technologies that develop as a result of the research will remain open source.

"Our role at Intel, continuously, is to develop technologies that compute ever faster, communicate ever faster and consume less and less power," Intel's director of Intel Labs Europe, Martin Curley, said during the call. "When we put these three opportunities together and work with Nokia, which has a very exciting range of products coming out and a very exciting vision of the future, this creates a recipe, or an environment, for I think some very compelling innovations."

When pressed as to whether a Star Wars-style hologram call was truly on the agenda, Mika Set???l???, Nokia's director of strategy, alliances and partnerships, was forced to offer, "It was given as a visual guiding example of a very different user experience."

Pressed again, Set???l??? continued, saying that "sometimes the movies offer a very good way of imagining the future. The way the 3-D holograms were put forward almost 30 years ago by Lucas Films is an extraordinary, visionary way of creating a communications interface. Are we able to repeat that or go that far? We definitely are giving it a go."

"That's the challenge," Intel's Curley added.