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Future technology: inside the big research labs

Posted on 21 Jan 2013 at 09:00

We explore the future technology being developed in the research labs of Microsoft, Intel, Google, ARM and HP

Research papers tend to have the most impenetrable titles, but the work within them achieves more than just academic recognition – it can reshape our daily lives. Without Microsoft, Google and others investing vast sums in their men and women in white coats, we’d still be playing snake on a non-smartphone, our laptops would weigh 3kg, and we’d be seeing blue screens on our PCs all the time.

Okay, so that last one still happens, but it’s just one area where open-ended research – and some colouring crayons – has yielded unexpected benefits. In this feature, we explore the research labs of five giants to find out how.

Future technology: Microsoft

Microsoft Research employs 1,000 people, including 150 in Cambridge with the goal of furthering academic knowledge in computer science and mathematics - but that knowledge often leads to product advances. Nicole Kobie finds out how Microsoft is improving gesture recognition, reducing blue screens and coming up with the future of search.

Future technology: Intel

Much of Intel's research budget goes on the chips inside our PCs and laptops, but that's not all the company is focused on. Darien Graham-Smith finds out about Intel's plans for our gadgets to become personal assistants, and for our cars to get smarter the more we drive.

Future technology: Google

Google still makes its money from search, but its reach is growing. Barry Collins looks into the company's research into self-driving cars, a new programming language that should make it easier for anyone to automate tasks, and a way to map the interiors of buildings using a smartphone camera.

Future technology: ARM

ARM chips are everywhere right now - you probably have one in your smartphone - and as more of them connect to the internet, the company's dream gets closer to reality. Stewart Mitchell finds out about the "Internet of Things", and the potential opened up by the rise of multicore processing.

Future technology: HP

HP isn't having the best time right now, but never mind the management woes - its global research teams are still pressing on. David Bayon finds out about HP's attempts to scan outdoor environments in 3D, extend the usefulness of the humble barcode, and add high-quality colour to ebook readers.

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