Tech Innovation

Depth Camera Brings Post-Photo Effects Like Multifocus to Tablet

Deb Miller Landau iQ Managing Editor
IDF14 keynote speech

Ever thought you’d taken the perfect picture only to discover later that it’s out of focus? There’s hope, photo flubbers!

Intel, on Tuesday, demonstrated for the first time its RealSense snapshot technology, which uses two cameras to make possible a variety of post-photo effects, including the ability to change the focal point of a picture.

The camera will soon be available in tablets, including the lightweight Dell Venue 8 7000 series, which will start selling in November. During his keynote address at the Intel Developer Forum, the company’s annual conference for developers in San Francisco, Intel Chief Executive, Brian Krzanich, announced the new camera technology.

IDF14 keynote speech

Pulling out a new Dell tablet with a plus-sized bezel, Krzanich showed the audience a photograph of colorful lanterns. “I took this picture yesterday in Chinatown,” he said. Then, using a slider, he removed colors from the photograph, layer by layer.

RealSense snapshot performs other tricks, too. With a simple click, it’s possible to bring different parts of a photo into focus. (Yes, it’s the feature everyone has wished for when staring at a perfectly composed photo with a slightly blurry person in the middle.) It’s also possible to measure the distance of objects in a picture, like how high a basketball player jumped or the distance between two kids playing in the back yard.

The snapshot technology works by taking pictures from three different cameras and combining them with information, like depth of field, focal points and filters. The result is an image file with many more capabilities than a standard JPEG. From a mathematical standpoint, Krzanich said, it basically creates an image with “an infinite number of layers,” each of which can be manipulated.

On stage, Krzanich turned to take a photo of the audience to give another demonstration of RealSense snapshot capabilities, when he spotted Dell CEO, Michael Dell. (Dell was wearing a wireless microphone, dashing the hopes of anyone who thought it was spontaneous.)

Dell went on stage, looked at the tablet and said: “It looks a little clunky, Brian. I think we can do better than that.” And from his back pocket, Dell pulled out what he said will be the world’s thinnest tablet yet: the Dell Venue 8 7000 series, which is just 6 mm thick. That’s the thickness of about 12 pieces of printer paper. Krzanich removed the bezel on his device, which turned out to be a case designed to make the tablet look bigger than it is.

tablet with RealSense

Using a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Dell pointed out that he had taken a poor picture. Not only was the bridge in the distance, there was also a figure in a red jacket with her back to the camera and a tackle box on the ground. There were just too many things to look at.

But with a tap, the bridge came into focus while everything in the foreground became blurry. Dell then tapped on the figure in red to show how he could choose what to focus on after the photo had been taken.

Dell also demonstrated the ability to measure objects in a photo. He used a yellow couch and dragged his finger to find out how long it was. It’s the sort of thing that would be useful for anyone looking to outfit a new apartment, measure the distance of a long jump or the height of a fence. The possibilities for using RealSense snapshot are truly endless, and soon the technology will be available on tablets throughout the marketplace.


Pearly Tan contributed to this article.

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