Intel Shows Off RealSense 3-D Camera In Phone Prototype

Intel showed off a smartphone prototype Wednesday equipped with a 3-D depth camera that features 3-D scanning, gesture control, depth perception and facial recognition.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich demonstrated the prototype, with its Intel RealSense 3-D camera, at Intel's developer conference in Shenzhen, China.

The exhibition left analysts wondering if the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company will use its new technology to gain a foothold in the smartphone market, where its chip products have struggled to gain prominence.

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An Intel spokesman said the prototype was "intended to show how we continue to innovate with RealSense and to help spur more innovation among Chinese developers and the ecosystem," adding that there were no further details available about the time frame and specifications of Intel RealSense on smartphones.

The Intel RealSense 3-D depth camera, introduced at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, is powered by ultrathin processors and a depth sensor to provide enhanced 3-D camera features.

The camera was initially intended to fit into PCs and tablets, and notably has appeared in Dell's newer models of its Venue tablet line. Most recently, the Venue 10 7000, an Android-powered tablet with quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 processors, was unveiled by Dell on Wednesday.

But Intel stated it hoped to eventually integrate the new technology into mobile phones, as demonstrated through the 6-inch smartphone prototype presented by Krzanich on Wednesday.

Intel has long struggled in the mobile-based chip space, as most vendors, with the exception of Lenovo, have largely shunned the company's chips for smartphone products. But analysts said they think the new technology could provide a different way for the company to establish a brand in a market where it has largely missed the mark.

"Intel has been working very hard to expand its position in the mobility market, and this is a good example of the innovation it has been developing and delivering," said Charles King, analyst at research firm Pund-IT."

"Given how ubiquitous cellphone cameras have become, the idea of stepping up technology with 3-D features could be very positive for Intel," King said. "If they can get the right smartphone partners to buy into this and create competitive and memorable qualities around it, it will be a real boost for Intel's prospects in the mobile space."

Despite the mobile prospects for Intel RealSense, King addressed potential concerns about what the technology would do for battery life in phones, as well as the significance of the larger, 6-inch prototype screen, a size that is not enormously popular in some markets.

RealSense's functions would seem to mesh with the mobile world as more smartphone vendors explore new, cutting-edge features like facial recognition, speech recognition and finger tracking.

"I'm interested to see more about RealSense's power consumption and how that will work for phones," said Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing at Equus, an Intel partner based in Minnetonka, Minn. "But it's smart for Intel to refocus and open up another avenue in the mobile market with this new technology. It's difficult to say how this will play out in the mobile space."

Intel's RealSense competes with technology like Kinect for Windows, Microsoft's stockpile solution of immersive gesture and voice recognition technology, and the multiple front-facing sensory 3-D cameras on Amazon's Fire Phone.