3-D printing, high-speed navigation and a magic mirror are some of the technologies that have come from new computer chips with advanced spatial sensing. Technology startups that have partnered with chip maker Intel showed off their products recently in San Francisco.
In one demonstration, an imaging application scanned a toy bear to create a character for the popular game Minecraft. The three-dimensional image took shape on the computer screen, in one of many new apps that lets user customize their games with a camera with an Intel chip called RealSense.
“It looks at things in the visual spectrum as well as in the infrared spectrum,” said Mark Day, chief executive of the company voidALPHA, which developed the app Minescan.
“It's bouncing infrared [light] off, which is what gives things the volume. You could scan your face. You can scan toys, just pretty much any object,” said Day.
Spatial modeling can be used to create 3-D images of people, in this case, using a laser to etch a portrait inside a block of glass. Nearby, a woman raises a tablet computer slowly and moves it above and around a man's head to gather the data for the portrait. The man's image takes shape in three dimensions on the screen, and a laser engraver creates the artwork.
Viktor Erukhimov of the company Itseez3D, with offices in Russia and California, said his tablet-based software lets users put themselves into games.
“I have a video of myself doing some soccer moves I would never be able to do myself,” he said.
Another app lets musicians play virtual instruments by moving their arms through the air. A man waves and twists his hands to create a tune on a synthesizer, as a mechanical stringed instrument adds to the music.
Yet another device, called a Memory Mirror, helps customers decide what clothes to buy as they pose in front of a smart display.
Nadav Neufeld of the company MemoMi says it can sense the person's position and shape, “and change the color of whatever you're wearing, without you needing to actually change the color itself.”
The Memory Mirror is now being used in several San Francisco branches of a department store.
Intel's Natalie Cheung says a RealSense camera helps drones maneuver through obstacles while flying at high speed.
“It can detect objects at a certain distance and “talk” to the autopilot on the drone,” Cheung explains, “and say, hey, you need to move away. The object is getting closer.”
The same system is helping robots make deliveries to hotel rooms, and several autonomous robots from a company called Savioke are being used at hotels in San Francisco.
Developers at this forum are working on other apps and high-tech products, ranging from the whimsical – a small flying camera – to more practical scanners that workers wear on their gloves to track factory inventory, that are now or may soon be on the market.