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Hands-On With Intel's RealSense Snapshot Camera

Hands-On With Intel's RealSense Snapshot Camera

I do not care all that much about Dell’s Venue 8 7000 tablet.

That’s not because the tablet itself is uninteresting, by any means. It’s a beautiful device. The 2500x1600 display is crystalline and begs you to touch it. The chassis is incredibly slender at just 6mm thick, with classy, squared-off edges that evoke the design language of the iPhone 5. The dark gray metal frame feels solid, and the “infinity” bezel is wonderfully thin, measuring what appears to be about 1mm thick. I’m also glad to see a front-facing speaker, and I actually quite like the resulting slightly asymmetrical look, even in a horizontal orientation.

And of course, there are some fine specs, to boot:

Dell Venue 8 7000 Series
Dell Venue 8 7000 Series
Dell Venue 8 7000
SoCIntel Atom Z3580 (quad-core, up to 2.3GHz)
GPUImagination PowerVR G6430
Memory2GB LPDDR3
Display8.4-inch OLED, 2560x1600, 361 ppi
Storage16GB eMMC
Battery5900mAh / 21WHr
Cameras8MP Intel RealSense Snapshot (rear)2MP (front)
AudioFront-facing stereo speakers, MaxxAudio Waves
Expansion PortsMicroSD (up to 512GB)Micro-B USB 2.0Headphone/mic combo jack
Connectivity802.11ac 1x1 Wi-FiIntel XMM 7260 LTE (optional)Bluetooth 4.0Miracast
Weight306g (0.67 lbs)
Dimensions8.5 x 4.89 x 0.25 inches (LxWxZ)
Operating SystemAndroid KitKat 4.4
OtherMachined aluminum with Thermoplastic Engineering Polymer ResinAccelerometerGyroscopee-Compass
Price$399

Those are some promising specs, but they're not what we’re looking at today. What I am far more interested in at present is the Intel RealSense Snapshot camera(s) mounted on the back of the Venue 8 7000.

We’ve seen enough implementations of RealSense at this point (predominantly at CES 2015) to know that the hardware should be taken seriously. But we also know enough to be wary. RealSense’s limitations, from what we gathered sniffing around at CES, are mostly in the software that various OEMs are using as they bake these camera(s) onto devices.

For example, we found the use of RealSense 3D cameras on the HP Zvr display to be downright impressive, but we also saw a few implementations that were, to be generous, not particularly functional.

There are actually three RealSense cameras that we’re aware of, two of which are more powerful RealSense 3D cameras. The one baked into the Dell Venue 8 7000, the RealSense Snapshot camera, is the littlest brother of the trio. HP’s Zvr display uses four of the bigger versions to achieve its immersive workstation environment. Can the little guy, all by itself on a tablet, produce results that are anywhere near as interesting?

What It Is

The RealSense Snapshot camera is actually three cameras: an 8MP “normal” camera flanked by two 720p HD cameras. All three are mounted on the back of the Venue 8 7000 tablet, spaced about 80mm apart. When you use the Snapshot, you’re using all three cameras to capture a “depth” image. Not unlike a Lytro camera, this allows you to selectively focus and edit an image after you’ve snapped a picture, right there on the device itself.

You can also simply take normal photos with the 8MP camera using the “Single” shooting mode. To use the three-in-one power of the RealSense Snapshot, you use the “Depth Snapshot” mode.

A key feature of the RealSense Snapshot camera is a tool that allows you to measure distances and objects within photos you’ve taken.