Dieter Fox

Dieter Fox, a University of Washington associate professor of computer science and engineering, has been chosen to co-lead the new Intel Science and Technology Center on the UW campus. The robotics and artificial intelligence researcher, working alongside Intel’s Anthony LaMarca, will develop new technologies that bring computing and sensing into “everyday devices and environments.”

That could include everything from how people cook in the kitchen to how we track the whereabouts of our family members.

The new center will receive $2.5 million each year as part of a commitment by Intel. The appointment and funding follows the closure of the Intel Labs initiative in Seattle earlier this year, a 10-year-old operation that was also led by Fox.

The new structure is part of a plan by the semiconductor giant to strengthen ties with universities, funneling more money to research efforts.

Dieter Fox and Anthony LaMarca

Intel now operates a total of five Science and Technology Centers around the country. Other centers specialize in visual computing, secure computing, embedded computing and cloud computing.

The UW center will focus on what is often described as “pervasive computing” — the idea that technologies are incorporated into everyday life like refrigerators, ovens and other home electronics. That’s a strength of UW professor Shwetak Patel — a recent winner of a $500,000 MacArthur Genius Award — who will also work closely with the center. It will also collaborate with researchers at six other universities, including Cornell, Stanford and UCLA.

The Intel Science and Technology Center plans to conduct research in three core areas, using algorithms to”extract complex context and activity information from sensor data. For example, the research could be used to “not only sense that someone is in the kitchen but that the person is slicing ingredients for a particular recipe and whether the cuts are too thick for the recipe being used,” Intel said.

Here are the three core applications where researchers plan to spend their time, with a description of each from Intel.

  • Mobile Health and Wellbeing: To improve physical and emotional wellbeing, the center will explore developing technologies to help consumers identify, manage and reduce stress and anxiety in their daily lives. Researchers aim to develop mobile systems that can understand the complex context of their users’ lives – both in and outside the home – and learn about their routines, interactions and stressors.
  • Family Coordination System: Building a smart home system that can learn, recognize and track the everyday activities of all members of the family. The system will track activities at different levels and use activity information to assist families in planning.
  • Task Space, Smart Kitchen: A demo space that illustrates how pervasive computing can help with physical tasks that don’t typically involve a computer — cooking a complex recipe or building a piece of furniture, for instance.

Here’s a quick overview at the new center.

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