Intel Investing $12M in Graphics, Visual Computing Center

Intel is planning to invest up to $12 million in a new European research center dedicated to researching visual computing and graphics technology. The center will focus on projects ranging from games to medical imaging to how graphics can help accelerate financial transactions. Intel is also expected to soon release its graphics processors code-named Larrabee that will help Intel compete against Nvidia and AMD's ATI products.

Intel is investing up to $12 million to create a research center that will focus on developing new graphics and visual computing technology at a time when the entire PC industry is trying to create new types of graphics-intense applications.

Intel Senior Fellow and CTO Justin Rattner announced the $12 million investment May 12. Intel plans to invest the money during the next five years to help build the Intel Visual Computing Institute, which will be located at Saarland University in Saarbrucken, Germany.

The goal of the center is to develop new types of PC hardware and software that will not only help in developing games but also help create other types of applications for fields such as health care and financial services.

While the announcement lacked specifics, Intel expressed particular interest in what it calls terascale research and technology. For Intel, this means using dozen and even hundreds of processing cores within a chip to improve the graphics and visual abilities of PCs.

This type of chip technology can also be used to create supercomputers and massive HPC (high-performance computing) systems that use multicore technology to solve problems in parallel instead of using older methods to simply crank up the clock speed of single-core processors.

"Given the growing importance of visual computing technology, it made perfect sense to expand our relationship and form this new institute," Rattner said in a statement. "We are confident that it will become an internationally recognized center and a driver for European leadership in the visual computing field."

If this approach to computing seems familiar, it's because Intel and its two main rivals in this area-Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices-have been pushing this technology as an alternative to classic chip technology.

Later this year or in early 2010, Intel plans to finally unveil its "Larrabee" graphics processor, which will use multiple x86 cores and allow Intel and software developers to take advantage of new types of parallel computing.

Nvidia is also interested in this type of multicore approach and using parallel computing. In the last few years, Nvidia has pushed its own Tesla GPUs (graphics processing units) for this type of computing. In addition, Nvidia has developed a programming language called CUDA, which works as a parallel computing engine for Nvidia's GPUs. AMD, through its ATI graphics division, is at work on similar technology.

Intel's investment in the new facility in Germany, which the company says is now its largest investment ever in a European university, comes at a time when Intel is facing ongoing scrutiny concerning its business practices within the European Union. Later the week of May 11, the EU is expected to fine Intel millions, if not billions, of dollars, claiming the company unfairly used its position to push competition out of Europe's PC market.

Intel is hoping to employ dozens of workers at the new facility by the end of 2009, including its own researchers, as well as individuals from Saarland University, Max Planck Institute for Informatics, Max Planck Institute for Software Systems and the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence.