Global computing giant Intel announced at its annual developers’ conference that 2015 will see the arrival of laptops and tablet devices with 3D sensing capabilities instead of traditional webcams. Intel first let word out about RealSense at CES 2014 (Consumer Electronics Show) where it showed seven laptops from major manufacturers like Dell and Lenovo. Intel has developed two different types of sensors, both based on depth perception. The first is a front facing webcam module which is designed to sense human gestures and movement. such a sensor could be implemented in applications to control applications wirelessly, like Microsoft’s Kinect. The other is intended for rear facing applications as a camera that can be placed on devices to scan objects, capture depth and shape data like the one seen in Dell’s upcoming Venue 8 tablet.
Laptops with 3-D sensors in place of conventional webcams will go on sale before the end of this year, according to chip maker Intel, which is providing the sensing technology to manufacturers. And tablets with 3-D sensors will hit the market in 2015, the company said at its annual developers’ conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. Intel first announced its 3-D sensing technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in January (see “Intel’s 3-D Camera Heads to Laptops and Tablets”). It has developed two different types of depth sensor. One is designed for use in place of a front-facing webcam, to sense human movement such as gestures. The other is designed for use on the back of a device, to scan objects as far as four meters away. Both sensors allow a device to capture the color and 3-D shape of a scene, making it possible for a computer to recognize gestures or find objects in a room. Intel is working with software companies to develop applications that use the technology. In the next few weeks the chip maker will release free software that any software developer can use to build apps for the sensors. Partners already working with Intel include Microsoft’s Skype unit, the movie and gaming studio Dreamworks, and the 3-D design company Autodesk, according to Achin Bhowmik, general manager for Intel’s perceptual computing business unit. None of those partners showed off what they’re working on at the event this week. But Intel showed several demonstrations of its own. One, developed with a startup called Volumental, lets you snap a 3-D photo of your foot to get an accurate shoe size measurement—something that could help with online shopping.