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Hands-On With Intel's RealSense Snapshot Camera

What Are We To Conclude?

It’s probably unfair at this point in its development to expect a camera like this one to be especially accurate. A Dell representative was clear with us that, “The measurements work on a stereo vision system, and the system can only estimate depth -- not get exact, true values. While this can be quite accurate when conditions are correct, it is not a reference system and Dell does not make any claims to that effect.”

“The measurement tool allows a user to get a good idea of the size of objects,” he added. “It’s unrealistic to expect scientific results from this system and Dell does not make claims about absolute accuracy. To expect better is to misunderstand the purpose and capabilities of the system.”

There's value in a camera that could reasonably tell us the width of, say, a couch we were shopping for (“Will it fit in the living room, dear?”) or the span of a footbridge you were constructing (“Do we have enough lumber, dude?”), but even these modest tasks produced somewhat modest results with the RealSense Snapshot camera.

That is, at least with the software running on the Dell Venue 8 7000. We’ll have to withhold total judgment until we get a chance, at some point, to test out the RealSense Snapshot camera with other software.

Unfortunately, at this point that’s not really possible. We asked Dell if there were apps in the works that we could test the camera with (the on-stage demo we saw at IDF, where they used the camera to size someone’s feet, comes to mind), but representatives told us that there were none available.

“As we just introduced Intel RealSense Snapshot to the market, we are now working with software developers on apps that will take advantage of the technology. So at this time there’s no Andorid apps yet that are specifically designed for the RealSense camera,” we were told.

As we mentioned earlier, Dell did say that it has some work to do on the measurement tool before it’s fully ready for prime time (and will continue to work on improvements). Thus, we’ll give the company a bit of a mulligan here. The measurement tool must improve dramatically for it to be of much use, though.

Take, for example, this doorway. As it happens, it is indeed 6’7”. But the measurement tool had one side correct and the other side off by 6 inches. Unless you measured the door yourself, how would you know which measurement was correct?

Further, the tool is finicky, at best. Everything -- lighting, distance, background, angle -- has to be just right in order to achieve any reasonable results at all.

Even so, to be fair to Dell (and Intel), the marketing teams may have done the product management folks a disservice by allowing consumers to believe that the measurement tool would be more accurate and powerful than it actually is, because now there are engineers stuck fielding critical questions from pesky journalists.

As it stands now, the RealSense Snapshot camera on the Venue 8 7000 is more of a gimmick, or a parlor trick, than a tool. It’s possible that the accuracy will improve with software enhancements, but unless and until that happens, don’t drop $1000 on that couch unless you measure it and your living room with a tape measure first.

Dell Venue 8 7000 SeriesView Deal
  • Eggz
    Looks like it could be pretty useful in the future, once all of the bugs are worked out.

    Lens distortion is a real problem when shooting off angle. It's like pointing a projector off-axis at a wall. When you do that, parts of the image get stretched toward one corner and others get shrunk toward the opposite corner (like below).

    A similar thing happens in reverse when you take pictures. So that could be throwing off the calculations as well. I'm not sure how they could adjust for that very well. Seems like an interesting challenge.
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    Sounds like it could be useful, I've never had a device with a good camera. Looks like manufacturers are starting to take this kind of photography seriously.
    Reply
  • best_buy
    The settings page says it's powered by Aquifi! I thought it was Intel !
    Reply
  • nroslm
    Seems like a good sensor fora variety of things, but useless as a camera. Good photos require good glass which costs hundreds or thousands of dollars, this simpy requires to much glass to implement and even for the point and shoot crowd, I'm sure they'd be more happy with resources put into a larger sensor since these devices have no room for more/better glass.
    Reply
  • nekromobo
    Countries which have not officially adopted the metric system (US, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Liberia). Please use metric system, enuff said.
    Reply
  • razvanc
    In the measurement tools defence:
    1. The 7 inch brick is actually smaller than the 8 inch ones (you can kind of se it with the naked eye)
    2. The door is at an angle. Look down at the picture. That probably hurts the depth estimation and with it the height estimation.

    I wonder, to test the reliability of the measurement couldn't you try again. You know measure twice cut one... :)
    Reply
  • scolaner
    15257401 said:
    In the measurement tools defence:
    1. The 7 inch brick is actually smaller than the 8 inch ones (you can kind of se it with the naked eye)
    2. The door is at an angle. Look down at the picture. That probably hurts the depth estimation and with it the height estimation.

    I wonder, to test the reliability of the measurement couldn't you try again. You know measure twice cut one... :)

    You're right in your "naked eye" assessment--but a major issue, which I address in the article, is that it's nearly impossible to shoot exactly straight on with a device like this. There's no tripod mount (although I'm sure you could rig one up somehow). You're just...holding a tablet.

    (Plus, if you need to measure something and have the time to set up a jerryrigged tripod, it would be easier to just use a tape measure.)

    And, of course, I "tried again"...I took multiple shots of everything, lol.
    Reply
  • warezme
    I get the feeling that if this had been an Apple device the writer would have been oozing wet in his underpants and tripping with kudos even on a pre production unit despite all it's foibles.
    Reply
  • Brian_R170
    I got a 7840 last week and the software update to enable the measuring function was pushed to it the next day. I had mixed results with the accuracy. It definitely worked best on things that were flat and less than 10 feet away. The photos where I rested my hands on a table and the camera angle was within 10 degrees or so of being perpendicular to the measurement line were accurate to the nearest inch every time. I took several photos of measuring devices (a yard stick and carpenter's square) to make the analysis a lot easier. The worst measurements came when I tried to measure a coworker's height. He is 6'1" and I got values from 5'3" to 5'10". I also got "unknown" occasionally when measuring multiple objects in the same photo, but it worked when I deleted the unknown-endpoints and created them again.
    Reply
  • Duckhunt
    Benghazi
    Reply