How Love, Lizards and Sea Sickness help guide our approach to technology – Intel IDF Day 0

When you think about Intel, your first thoughts may steer towards processors, the Intel bong or Jeffrey the robot. But yesterday, at the annual pre-IDF research press event, Intel researchers aimed to show another side – a growing side – of Intel that is focused on delivering the amazing and engaging user experiences of the future.

Genevieve Bell, Intel Fellow and head of the new Interactions and Experience Research Lab within Intel Labs introduced to the audience of more than 200 press and analysts that future success in technology rests in delivering user experiences that people love. Dr. Bell illustrated how the new lab will deliver amazing new experiences by beginning with understanding what people love about devices, platforms and services today, what technology can be applied to make that love even stronger and what technology can be applied to deliver new beloved experiences.

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Understanding what people love begins with understanding people. Dr. Bell spent many of her formative years in the Australian Outback accompanying her mother who, an anthropologist herself, was studying the aboriginal communities. Amongst other feats of daring, Dr. Bell learned how to hunt lizards and extract water from frogs (that’s Dr. Bell in the middle). Those years watching her mother watch people and her own subsequent studies in anthropology helped cement the approach that Dr. Bell and her team take today.

Horst Haussecker, director of the experience technology lab within Dr. Bell’s lab, then presented his approach to developing the technology that underlies the experiences that Dr. Bell’s ethnographers and UI experts conceive. Horst’s team, along with other groups within Intel Labs such as the University partner labs in Seattle, Pittsburgh and Berkeley bring with them a varied background of expertise that is regularly called upon to deliver the amazing new interactions and experiences that will fundamentally shape our use of tomorrow’s technology.


Horst’s background itself could safely be called atypical of Intel engineers. While working on his doctorate in Physics at Heidelberg University, Horst took several opportunities to conduct mid-ocean research for weeks at a time. Aboard the research vessel Oceanus, amidst former marines who would gladly wrestle mahi-mahi on the boat deck and fighting the never ending rocking of the ship, Horst learned four key lessons that guide his teams approach to technology development today:

1. Solve real, not academic problems

2. Use an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving

3. You can do amazing things if you just try

4. Never vomit into the wind

OK, so maybe that last one is more of a life lesson than a guide to technology development.

The guests were then invited to view numerous examples of future user experiences that Intel Labs is working on today.

Several demos showcased various scenarios of surface computing where object recognition along with mini projectors and cameras are used to create dynamic new compute areas on virtually any flat surface. One such surface is the kitchen counter, where one day you may be able to simply place a food item on your counter and be provided with cooking instructions and how-to videos displayed directly on your counter. Or perhaps the system can be used to help children learn counting and coin denomination in the classroom.


There were also demos showcasing facial recognition. One researcher demonstrated the work Intel Labs is doing to optimize facial recognition algorithms to one day deploy the technology on mobile phones. Another researcher showed how that same software could be used in an automotive environment to provide driver recognition as a means of anti theft and to activate an advanced alert system in the event the user is not looking in the direction of an imminent yet avoidable impact.

Mobile augmented reality, a glimpse into how we may interact with the internet connected TV of the future and ray tracing on mobile devices for gaming were other key demos showcased at the event.

To hear more about how Intel approaches user interaction and experience research with Genevieve Bell and Horst Haussecker, listen below to the latest episode of the Future Lab podcast series from Intel Labs.

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