Intel's Barrett laments R&D investment, likes no-frills computing

Craig Barrett, chairman of the chip giant, says the U.S. has an inadequate R&D investment environment and shows how inexpensive technology can be used in education.

SAN FRANCISCO--In a speech here Tuesday, Intel Chairman Craig Barrett complained about a lack of R&D investment incentives in the U.S. while showing how low-cost computers and a little innovation can make a difference in the classroom.

Intel chairman Craig Barrett watches as Carnegie Mellon University's Johnny Chung Lee demos a Nintendo-based low-cost whiteboard
Intel chairman Craig Barrett (right) watches as Carnegie Mellon University's Johnny Chung Lee demos a Nintendo-based low-cost whiteboard Brooke Crothers

Barrett lamented that the U.S. is not doing enough to spur R&D compared to the rest of the world. "You've got to have the right environment to invite investment in innovation, to invite investment in development," he said in his keynote address at the Intel Developer Forum. "This is my political statement of the day...There's really only one country where I don't see (this) attitude--this one (the U.S.)."

"We don't focus as hard as we should at incentivizing investment and innovation...the lapse of the R&D tax credit is enough of a political statement today. Where the government refuses to acknowledge that investing in R&D is important to the future competitiveness of the U.S., everyone else (in the world) is recognizing that."

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But not all innovation requires great sums of money. Barrett brought out Carnegie Mellon University's Johnny Chung Lee, who showed how to create a "low-cost multipoint interactive" whiteboard using the Nintendo Wiimote.

"Since the Wiimote can track sources of infrared (IR) light, you can track pens that have an IR LED in the tip. By pointing a Wiimote at a projection screen or LCD display, you can create very low-cost interactive whiteboards or tablet displays. Since the Wiimote can track up to four points, up to four pens can be used. It also works great with rear-projected displays," Chung says in a description on his Web site.

Chung concluded his demonstration by saying that cheap, off-the-shelf technology used creatively can do a lot more than just raw computing power. (Not exactly an Intel mantra.) "To be interesting today, technology has to be the fastest, the best, the brightest, the lightest, but here you can see if you sacrifice a little bit of capability and performance for dramatic savings in cost, you can have a pretty dramatic impact."

Click here for full coverage of the Intel Developer Forum.

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