updated 02:10 pm EST, Tue January 7, 2014
RealSense will use embedded 3D cameras to allow for NII interface
Intel's CES press conference on Tuesday focused on the interaction between man and machine, thanks to an embedded 3D camera the company has developed in conjunction with a number of hardware partners. The devices Intel will integrate the technology into include 2-in-1 tablets, ultrabooks, touch-enabled all-in-one PCs, and other mobile devices.
Intel is calling it the "world's first and smallest integrated 3D Depth and 2D Camera Module," which is said to bring human senses to devices. Dubbed the Natural Intuitive Immersive (NII), RealSense also brings software into the equation to help the machines make sense of what the 1080p camera module is seeing. A number of demonstrations involving gesture and voice control were performed, using the tech on portable computers from partners Asus, Dell, and Lenovo. Other partners include Acer, NEC, HP, and Fujitsu, and there are a number of software makers that collaborated on the integration as well.
These third-parties included 3D Systems, Autodesk, DreamWorks, Metaio, Microsoft Skype and Lync, Nuance Dragon Assistant, Scholastic and Tencent, among others.
Thanks to its 3D-sensing capabilities, the camera can distinguish depth, like the human eye, and thus allows a user's hand gestures to be recognised and turned into inputs.
The presentation was headed up by Intel's energetic Senior VP and General Manager of the Perceptual Computing Group, Mooly Eden. One demonstration included a Skype video call where the caller changed backgrounds at whim, saying green screens were no longer needed for producing web content. To be fair, however, the caller's outline was pretty jagged, and made worse with every movement, so some tweaking to the software is clearly needed. For casual, fun calls, however, this may be enough for most at this stage.
The camera also has a future in children's edutainment and gaming, Intel hopes, as kids will have options of interacting with their books and toys like never before. Partnerships with Scholastic will let them use gestures to interact with characters in a book, while the voice recognition software will turn virtual pages as kids finish reading the physical page in their books. The camera can also create a virtual play area, letting kids use physical objects that the camera can see and use in the onscreen action for virtual characters to interact with. Whether it replaces or augments a child's imagination is arguable, though.
DreamWorks has also backed the tech, with 3D vision the benefit for its upcoming works. Systems from Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, and NEC equipped with the RealSense tech will begin shipping in the second half of the year. Nuance's Dragon Assistant will use the tech to let users control their computers with their voice, saying things like "watch Family Guy," as demonstrated, which brought up Hulu and a list of the cartoon's episodes (on the second attempt).
Navigating Windows 8 using gesture controls was more successful, and has perhaps the more universal appeal, with hand pushes, shakes, and jabs opening or closing the applications on the tile interface.
Another fairly impressive showing involved moving nothing but the user's head and eyes around while Google Earth was launched in Street View to look around the area as if the person was actually standing there.
Like any new technology and interface, it will take some time to polish RealSense, but with big players like Intel and its plethora of partners behind it, it's off to a good start.