Intel grants $12M in multicore graphics research

Intel is giving $12 million over five years to Saarland University in Germany to use multicore computing for graphics

Intel on Tuesday said it was granting US$12 million over five years to Saarland University in Germany to research graphics technologies.

The funds will be used to form the Intel Visual Computing Institute, where researchers will investigate the use of multiple computing cores to create realistic graphics, said Megan Langer, a company spokeswoman.

The lab will focus on basic and applied research to develop programming models and architectures that boost computing using gestures, image recognition and life-like images. The research could be applied by software programmers to develop games, medical imaging or 3D engineering applications.

The investment is indirectly tied to writing software programs that tap into the power of Intel's upcoming Larrabee chip, which will include "many" x86 processor cores to deliver full graphics-processing capabilities. The graphics chip is the first Intel is targeting at the gaming market and industries requiring strong graphics and high-performance parallel processing.

Intel has not announced an official release date for Larrabee, though the company has said in the past it may come by 2010.

Adding more processing cores has emerged as the primary way to boost performance on chips. Many graphics card vendors offer many-core GPUs that can quickly process data-intensive applications like video decoding. Intel competitor Nvidia also offers a software tool kit that allows software developers to write programs for execution on its graphics cards.

Larrabee is part of Intel's terascale research program, which also involves the development of an 80-core chip code-named Polaris, a CPU that will be able to deliver more than 1 teraflop of performance.

Intel has already invested millions in academia to research multicore programming, but the investment in Saarland University is specifically for graphics technologies, Langer said. The company also has researchers in the U.S. and Europe doing similar work on graphics technologies.

Last year Intel and Microsoft committed $20 million to research centers at the University of California, Berkeley and University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, to promote multicore software design over the next five years.

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