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Rattner ready for robots to take over

IDF San Francisco Exterminate, exterminate, exterminate
Fri Aug 22 2008, 10:45

IN A TERRIFYING, not to mention highly distressing, view of the future, Intel's chief technology officer, Justin Rattner, managed to scare the bejeesus out of his IDF audience today, predicting it was only a matter of time before machine's surpassed human intelligence to become our evil overlords.


for a session supposedly based around Intel R&D, there was a fair amount of science fiction horror thrown in, as Rattner proffered his horrifying view that 'singularity' (the name for the era when machines overtake humans in the brain stakes) was nigh. Or at least too bloody close for comfort.


After an innocuous start – more moores law, more shrinking of microprocessors and CMOS chips, more power uppages, possible switches to carbon based materials, yaada, yaada, yaada- Rattner began wheeling out the robots.

The first robot seemed harmless enough, as it jerkily made itself busy in a simulation somewhat akin to Wall-E loading a dishwasher. Reaching for mugs on a rather overcrowded workspace, the robot was able to find what it was looking for, get a grip on it, and then drop it into a basket without breaking it. Just what we need most in life.


The second robot, however, seemed a tad more sinister as, after having shown it was capable of following an apple aroun d and griping it in its steely clutches using “electric field pre-touch” technology, it then decided to go berserker, chasing after Rattner himself. “FOUND IT, GOT IT” chanted the robot eerily, again and again as it made repeated grabs at the nervously retreating Rattner, eventually catching hold of him and tightening its grip around his neck.


To give the audience something of a buzz, so to speak, the Intel boffins also showed off a new technique for wirelessly transmitting energy and electricity through thin air. Setting up an experiment which involved two highly dodgy looking antennas and a lightbulb, young Intel lab rats demonstrated how it was possible to make use of resonant coupling to light the 60 W bulb with 75 per cent efficiency, wirelessly. Just imagine, soon we could all be charging our laptops and mobiles without ever having to plug them in. “But, is it dangerous?” was the question on every journo's lips. Well, if it is, Intel doesn't especially want to discuss it, but we certainly wouldn't recommend sticking your arm between the antennas to check.

Mind control – in the experimental and technological sense, rather than the Intel PR brainwashing sense – made a guest appearance in the Rattner keynote in the form of a very nerdy looking headset built by Emotive. By detecting its user's brainwaves, the machine was able to translate thoughts into actions in a video game, a trick Chipzilla dearly hopes will translate into lots and lots of money for the next few Christmases.


But the most impressive research product was yet to come, in the shape shifting form of programmable matter. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it involves millions of tiny miniscule little robots called 'Catoms' working in unison to ceaselessly shift themselves into various shapes, for example tiny mobile phones which can be stretched into mini laptops and back again.


So, a shape shifting, transformers style robot you can shrink and shove in your pocket, mind reading hats, demonic stalker robots whose intelligence will soon surpass ours and zapping electricity through the air. Intel's brave new world is sure 'shaping up' to electrify us. µ


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