Intel extends depth-sensing capabilities of RealSense cameras

The new D435i RealSense camera includes a new inertial measurement unit (IMU), providing another data point for measuring depth.

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Intel on Tuesday is expanding its family of RealSense cameras, extending the depth-sensing capabilities of the D400 series. The new D435i camera includes an inertial measurement unit (IMU), providing developers and engineers with another data point to work with as they build drones, robots and other products.

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RealSense cameras are used to help products "see" the world around them in 3D by tracking movement and depth. In an image from a depth camera, each pixel has four values: red, green blue and depth. The colors align with the depth of an object in an image -- red objects are farther away, while green images are closer and blue images are closest.

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The D435i adds a fifth data point: 6 degrees of freedom (6DoF) data from an internal IMU. The IMU combines a variety of linear accelerometers with gyroscopes to detect both rotation and translation for three axes, as well as pitch, yaw and roll. This provides positioning data for a variety of applications that use 3D imaging.

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For instance, it could help drones with navigation and stabilization, or it could help gaming systems detect motion and recognize gestures. It could help virtual reality and augmented reality headsets with rotational tracking. Or it could provide orientation for fitness tracking products, or for robots used for sorting, picking up and placing objects. There's serious work underway that's advancing the capabilities of robots, and RealSense cameras can add significant value to those designs, said Joel Hagberg, head of product management and marketing for Intel RealSense.

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"Intel's real strength is... the ability to process data at the camera itself versus having to go back to a graphics engine or CPU," Hagberg told ZDNet. "It enables [the customer] to free up processing power, but it also reduces power at the capture device and reduces the overhead you need for a system."

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The D435i runs on the open source Intel RealSense SDK 2.0, which now includes support for the IMU. It enables development across several programming languages, so developers can quickly create prototypes to interact with real or virtual environments. There have been more than 100,000 downloads of the SDK, Hagberg said.

The D435i camera is available for pre-order now and will begin shipping Nov. 26 at a retail price of $199.

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