Things have only just gotten under way at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco and the company’s RealSense depth-sensing camera technology has already emerged as the most important technology at the show.
In years past, Intel would work up the crowd with a glimpse of its next chips for PCs and servers. But with Moore’s Law stumbling and the action in computing shifting to robots and the Internet of Things, the chip maker has more important things to emphasize.
In his opening keynote Tuesday morning, CEO Brian Krzanich showed how the computer vision enabled by RealSense can be used in all kinds of applications, ranging from robots to computer games to vending machines that interact with the people around them.
A robot that uses Intel's RealSense for computer vision. Credit: James Niccolai
Krzanich showed the first prototype smartphone with a RealSense camera embedded inside. It will allow smartphones to be used to create 3D scans of objects, or even to act as motion sensors for computer games.
Intel and Google are building a software developer kit to be released later this year that will let Android developers start building apps that make use of RealSense.
But the technology is also coming to a huge range of other software platforms, including Mac OS X, Linux, the open source Robot Operating System and the Unity gaming engine, Krzanich said.
A prototype phone with Intel's RealSense 3D camera, shown at IDF.
It’s all part of Intel’s effort to get developers thinking creatively and using its chips and other technologies in non-PC devices. With drones, robots and wearables all taking off, Intel needs to make sure it doesn’t get left behind when all that computing action shifts to other platforms.
“The big question for IDF this year is, What will you develop? What will you bring to the world?” Krzanich asked the hall of developers.
RealSense can play a big role in PC gaming, he said. A company called Razer will sell a standalone camera peripheral, powered by RealSense, that can track gamers' movements when they’re playing a PC game.
Shaped like a small flashlight, the camera can track head movements, for instance, so if a gamer looks to the side while playing a game, the movement gets reflected in what the gamer sees on the screen. The camera is due out in the first quarter next year.
Krzanich also showed a vending machine fitted with a RealSense camera. It allows the machine to identify the gender of the person using the machine and even an approximate age range, according to Krzanich.
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