Craig Barrett wins hearts and minds at IDF

Posted by Humphrey Cheung

San Francisco (CA) – It wasn’t your typical Intel Developers Forum keynote speech.  Intel’s Chairman of the Board, Craig Barrett, didn’t talk about die-sizes, nanometers or wafers, but instead prodded the audience to pursue the human side of technology.  From microloans to digital whiteboards, Barrett outlined services and gadgets that would help impoverished third world countries create business or teach children and in so doing, won the hearts of and minds of attendees.

 

The grandfatherly Barrett paraded guest after guest onto the stage to discuss their pet projects.  And in between, he took some pot shots at the US government and education system.  He said that our government doesn’t focus “as hard as we should” on education and research and development.  He added that the US is falling behind in basic R & D.  “Everyone else is recognizing that,” Barrett said of countries who are currently on pace to outspend the USA on technology research.

Integrating technology into the classroom one of Barrett’s pet projects, but sometimes technology is just too expensive for schools – especially when you’re talking about third-world classrooms in India, Asia and Latin America.  But one of Barrett’s guests, Johnny Chung Lee, showed off a Wii controller built into a simple dry erase marker.  Lee simply removed the outer shell of the controller and popped it into the marker and in the process turned it into a fancy handheld mouse of sorts for electronic whiteboards.  Traditionally such whiteboards cost several hundred to thousands of dollars, but Lee’s creation costs just $50.  Barrett joked, “Some whiteboard makers are probably very happy about your invention.”

Healthcare costs around the world are skyrocketing and Barrett likens the US system to an old-fashioned mainframe computer.  We, the patients, always have to visit the doctor and hospital.  Barrett asks why the health care system shouldn’t come to us?  Using small laptops and webcams, doctors could make housecalls both in-person and virtually.  Top prove the point, Barrett talked with his two personal doctors in India via video projectors.

But innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum and sometimes you need some serious cash to get things off the ground.  Barrett ended his keynote by announcing the Intel Inspire*Empower Challenge which will award $100,000 prizes to people and companies who solve serious problems in education, healthcare, economic development and environment.  But before you get too excited, Barrett explained that the money won’t go into your personal checking account, rather it will go towards the implementation of your idea.