Intel's Depth Camera Will Eventually Land in Smartphones

Intel director of perceptual products and solutions Anil Nanduri claims that the company's upcoming depth-sensing 3D camera technology will bridge the gap between the real world and the virtual world. It will supposedly create a level of interaction with consumer devices that goes way beyond the mouse, keyboard and touchscreen interfaces.

"You'll add the ability to sense your excitement, emotion -- whether you are happy or smiling. The algorithms and technologies are there, but they are getting more refined, and as they get more robust, you'll see them," Nanduri told the IDG News Service.

For instance, eye tracking will be able to monitor children as they read, and determine if they became stuck on a word, how much they actually read, and if they need help with specific words. The camera sensor will also be able to recognize an object the user points at, know the model number and actual dimensions, and either create a 3D model for 3D printing at a store, or print it directly to a 3D printer.

Nanduri claims that the camera tech will help the computer understand humans better, bring new levels of interactivity to 3D games, and even make web-based conferencing interesting by blanking out the background and adding a green screen, thus allowing the user to place them in a different environment. Items can even be manipulated on-screen just as they are in the real world, only using virtual hands.

Nanduri claims that the camera can identify characteristics, contours and shapes of items in view. It also has the ability to sense distance, size, depth, color, contours and other parameters of structures, hence its ability to "scan" objects for 3D printing. He indicates that it's a step up from Kinect, that the combination of hardware and algorithms will make images more meaningful.

"Kinect was a good initial version of a depth camera more from a long range perspective. When Intel started looking at it, we were primarily looking at it primarily as more personal interaction, short range, which is probably a meter or meter-and-a-half range of interaction," Nanduri said.

Intel's depth camera tech will first arrive in standalone webcams, including the Senz3D which was jointly developed by Intel and Logitech. It will then appear in notebooks and Ultrabooks in the second half of 2014. Eventually, the camera tech will trickle down into tablets and smartphones, he said.

Currently, the company is trying to cram the tech into an Ultrabook form factor using a high resolution short-range camera that focuses on a small area and what he calls finger-level articulation. "You need to have a lot more resolution for that zone," he said. "To really scale it to volumes, you need to get to the right form factor from the optics perspective, you need to get to the right power levels and you need to have the right cost structure to help scale it into integration."

Nanduri believes that users of this camera tech will progressively forget all about the mouse and keyboard when interacting with their compatible devices. We'll find out soon enough.

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  • bigpinkdragon286
    When I read about the camera sensing which words a child gets stuck on, I couldn't help but think how they will also be watching which ads people are looking at.
  • Grandmastersexsay
    Shut up about the 3D printing. Spending thousands to make cheap plastic objects is completely ridiculous when you consider the fact that those same thousands could buy you a CNC milling machine. Why limit yourself to plastic when you can work with wood and metals just as easily? The marketers did a bang up job convincing the pseudo techies that 3D printing is the future. What a joke. Milling is superior in every practical way to 3D printing and the technology has be around for decades.
  • baron blunderbuss
    not all people have the space for a metal/wood workshop in their apartment or house...noise...maintenance...danger for children/pets and so on and so on, use your head before commenting plz