Intel Details RealSense 3D SDK, Hardware

This week, Intel released the RealSense SDK for Windows beta, a new toolkit for building applications that take advantage of Intel's RealSense 3D camera for the PC. Unlike the previous SDK, developers can now add augmented reality, facial analysis, gestures, hand and finger tracking, and speech recognition to their applications.

According to Intel, the new SDK is only meant to develop applications for Ultrabooks, laptops, 2-in-1s and All-in-Ones. This new SDK doesn't apply to the RealSense technology used on tablets like the upcoming Dell Venue 8 7000, which Intel calls RealSense Snapshot. The SDK also doesn't seem to apply to the integrated RealSense 3D camera that will be crammed into tablets and detachables.

Intel stresses that once developers download the SDK, they're not on their own. There are a number of events planned for 2014 including tutorials, webinars, Virtual AE sessions, hackathons and more. There's also the RealSense App Challenge, which provides $1 million in prizes.

We recently contacted Intel to provide us with additional information regarding the three technologies:

Tom's Hardware: Besides the Dell Venue 8, what other tablets coming out in the near future will have RealSense 3D technology? When will the technology be offered in smartphones?

Intel: The technology available on the Dell Venue 8 is called Intel RealSense Snapshot, and there is also a premium real-time depth-sensing solution called the Intel RealSense 3D Camera for tablets, which will be in the market later in 2015 on both Intel Atom processor and Core-based platforms from various OEMs. There is also a third camera tied to the announcement made on Tuesday about the SDK – the Intel RealSense 3D Camera for laptops, 2-in1s and All-in-Ones. As for the tablet-focused Intel RealSense Snapshot, no additional plans to extend the technology to smartphones have been announced as of yet, however, it is possible depending on OEM interest.

Image: Microsoft

TH: Presumably, tablets will have the RealSense 3D camera on the front. Is there one on the back as well? How much power does the camera consume in tablets?

Intel: Our depth camera solutions for tablets are rear cameras which are designed to see what we see.  In this way, it is possible to augment the real world with a digital world, to measure objects, to take depth-enhanced photos and videos, and to capture objects in 3D.  We have not disclosed power consumption but the 3D camera module is optimized for tablet usage.

TH: Why should consumers be excited about RealSense 3D technology? What kind of pricing should consumers expect from devices that are equipped with RealSense 3D cameras?  

Intel: Intel RealSense 3D camera technology (for laptops, 2in1s and AIOs) is exciting in that it represents the next evolutionary step in computer interface. The technology will supplement existing interfaces like keyboard, mouse and touch, with far more natural interaction elements including gesture, speech recognition and facial analysis.

Consumers can look forward to applications that adapt to their communication style, rather than having to learn custom interfaces. Additionally, 3D cameras will enable brand new experiences, including video chat with the background removed from the scene as well as 3D scanning of people and objects.

As far as pricing, the solution has been optimized for mass market adoption. Manufacturers and retailers will be setting the price of their devices equipped with integrated Intel RealSense 3D cameras. We don't discuss specifics, but it will be surprisingly affordable, and we will even offer solutions in Intel Atom processor-based tablet platforms later next year.

TH: Why should consumers be excited about the Intel RealSense 3D camera for tablets? (Note: this is the premium, real–time depth sensing solution. This is not Intel RealSense Snapshot.)

Intel: The Intel RealSense 3D camera for tablets aims to change and expand what consumers expect from their devices. Users will be able to capture objects, people and environments as stunning 3D models, to be shared with friends/family or sent directly to a 3D printer. Intel RealSense technology also enables a new class of photography/video applications. Users can add real-time visual effects to specific elements (based on depth) in photos and videos.

Finally, we're excited about how Intel RealSense technology will change how people play and learn. Because devices equipped with Intel RealSense technology can sense depth, applications can effectively merge virtual and real worlds. Instead of playing a game that exists entirely on a device's screen, users will be able to add fun, educational graphic overlays to the real world.

Image: Microsoft

TH: How has the reaction been from game developers regarding the RealSense 3D camera for mobile and PCs? What about regular software/app developers?

Intel: Building on the success of Intel's perceptual computing SDK (with over 30k downloads), the Intel RealSense SDK for Windows, for use with laptops, 2-in-1s and All-in-Ones, has just launched as a public beta. Reactions from developers have been great. More than 60 independent software vendors have committed to launch their applications by the time systems with integrated Intel RealSense 3D cameras become commercially available.

Additionally, Intel is working with a number of talented game developers to add more natural and interesting interfaces to their games. This post on Intel's software blog has additional information on how some developers are working with Intel RealSense technology.

Intel RealSense Snapshot SDK is not publicly available at this time and thus there is not much developer feedback.

TH: If I understand correctly, there's a new version of the 3D camera for PC. How has it improved over the previous model? Will this camera remain $99 when it goes retail? When is this camera expected to go public?​

Intel: Starting in Q4, the Intel RealSense 3D camera will be integrated into laptops, 2-in-1s and All-in-Ones. Additionally, a peripheral version of this camera called the Intel RealSense Developer Kit has been made available to select software developers and will be more broadly available to developers later this year. The $99 price referenced in yesterday's announcement was the cost of the peripheral camera, which are being offered so developers can write applications ahead of consumer availability. There is no plan to make this developer peripheral version of the camera more broadly available to consumers.

The new camera has a 4X improvement in depth-resolution over our original camera, having gone from QVGA to full VGA resolution. The SDK has, accordingly, been rebuilt to take advantage of the new capabilities which include:

  • Gesture Tracking: The 2014 SDK identifies 8 static poses and 6 dynamic gestures that provide a natural way to interact with software. Static pose examples are things like thumbs up or peace sign, while dynamic gesture examples might be a wave or circular motion.
  • Hand and Finger Tracking: This capability provides 3D positions of each joint in a user's hand. In 2013, the SDK supported limited tracking, but in 2014 the Beta SDK supports 22 points of hand and joint tracking for greater accuracy and robustness. 
  • Facial Analysis: Using the Intel Perceptual Computing SDK, facial analysis was limited to frontal, 2D detection and 7 landmark points including eyes, mouth, and nose. Now, 3D Facial Analysis for 2014 supports depth-based landmark tracking, enabling the tracking of 78 landmarks, true 3D face detection as well as roll, pitch, and yaw of the face. 
  • Capture and Share (coming in a future release): This capability was developed in conjunction with 3D Systems. With the Intel RealSense SDK, developers will be able to write apps that can scan, modify, print, and share small 3D objects.
  • Augmented Reality: In 2014 the SDK is improving its augmented reality capability with the addition of depth information and the help of AR industry leader Metaio.
  • Background Removal: Introduced during 2013, background removal lets developers add green screen types of functionality to applications.

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