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.