Intel's smartphone with integrated RealSense 3D camera to ship for $399

The smartphone is a reference device to find uses for the 3D camera in handsets

Intel has developed a new smartphone with a 3D RealSense camera that can recognize objects and detect motion and gestures, much like a Kinect camera.

The smartphone is being made available as a reference device for anyone interested in discovering new uses for 3D cameras in handsets. The 3D camera is a smaller and more advanced version of the RealSense cameras in PCs and tablets.

For $399, users will get an Android smartphone with a 6-inch screen that can display images at a 2560 x 1440-pixel resolution. The RealSense ZR300 depth camera, which is placed at the edge of the phone, can capture 10 million points per second. The phone also has a 2-megapixel front camera and 8-megapixel rear camera.

The phone isn't for daily use, but more for capturing 3D images, taking cool selfies and experimenting with the RealSense camera. It has only 3G connectivity, so aside from the camera features it isn't very useful beyond making basic phone calls. It has an Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor, which is in Microsoft's Surface 3, so don't expect long battery life. It has 64GB of storage, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and an HDMI port.

Users can reserve the smartphone; Intel did not provide a shipping date. It will only ship to U.S. customers.

Most smartphones today have 2D cameras. Some uses for the 3D RealSense camera were demonstrated in wearables and virtual reality headsets at CES.

The 3D camera can go deep inside images to determine the size, shape and contours of objects. As a result, it can capture and identify real-life objects and export them to virtual worlds. The smartphone can be plugged into a headset -- like a Google Cardboard -- and real world images taken with the smartphone's camera can be played back as a 3D VR experience.

The 3D camera's gesture and motion control features allow users to hold or interact with objects in a virtual world. That could make playing 3D games via VR headsets more interactive and fun. In the future, Intel also wants to combine voice recognition with VR for better user experiences. 

In PCs, Intel's 3D camera has already made Skype chats more fun by adding animation and backdrops. Dell's Venue 8 7000 tablet with RealSense can measure the distance between objects.

Intel also has plans to develop 3D cameras that can recognize mood and reading habits. By analyzing facial expressions, a 3D camera mounted on a tablet, for example, could determine whether people are happy or sad, or bored with what they are reading. That would involve the RealSense camera recognizing faces and analyzing the shape of lips, eyes and cheeks.

The reference smartphone supports the Google Project Tango and Intel RealSense software development kits.

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