Intel Developer Forum Day 1

This week I'm in San Francisco for the Intel Developer Forum, (IDF), Intel's half-yearly showcase and talking shop of all that's new from them

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By  Mark Sutton Published  August 19, 2008

This week I'm in San Francisco for the Intel Developer Forum, (IDF), Intel's half-yearly showcase and talking shop of all that's new from them. For those that don't know, IDF is one of the biggest events on the tech calendar, a mix of the highly technical sessions on a very narrow focus, and a platform to show off some new directions and new thinking for IT.

So far the media have had a 'Day 0' briefing yesterday on technologies that bridge the gap between real and virtual world, including a lot of stuff around virtual worlds, and how Intel is working to make sure computing power can keep up with the demands of the growing number of users of virtual worlds; the sorts of sensor technology and processing power that computers will need to be able to make sense of the real world, and how these technologies can tie together to create mobile pervasive computing devices.

We've also been presented with a couple of sponsored debates on power consumption and eco-issues - unfortunately the room was a bit too small to manage heat dispersal from the assembled journalists, so I ducked out on that one. Low density data centres won though apparently.

This morning, the show was kicked off properly by Intel chairman Craig Barrett. While there was a fair bit of tutting from the techies because Barrett talked about the role of technology in development rather than microprocessor architecture, his keynote reflected his role as an ambassador for the technology industry, and also, like Bill Gates, shows the growing awareness and concerns of the Silicon Valley pioneers for their lasting legacy.

Barrett is a well-traveled man, and his belief in the power of technology, and the importance of education to create change are clearly heartfelt. The keynote, while brief, drew on a lot of different projects that use technology to make a difference.

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of what he said was not that countries have to throw millions at projects to make them a success, but that even simple technology, even if means taking a step back from the cutting edge, can be harnessed to create really useful, and cheap solutions.

Part of the address was a demo of cool hack that takes a Nintendo Wiimote controller, some magic market pens, a projector and IR sensors, and enables them to be turned into an interactive whiteboard, at a cost of less than $50. It might not make the interactive white board manufacturers happy, but it does give teachers in poorer countries the chance to bring technology into their teaching, to give developing countries the same chances as the developed world.

Barrett's other big focus is clearly education - he was critical of US education system for not focusing more on science and technology, and stressed the importance of good teachers. Again, his message was that throwing money at social development isn't necessarily the way forward - getting the people on the ground to connect with ideas and tools and enthusiasm is. An important message for leaders in the Gulf maybe?

There's lots more cool stuff on the agenda, and demos and so on dotted around the Moscone centre where IDF is being held - I've spotted a prototype next-generation space shuttle, and a demonstration of how Intel solid-state drives stood up to being strapped to a motocross bike and ridden through the Mexican desert already - so look out for more updates from the show as IDF progresses.

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