IDF 2010: Intel OASIS technology: Microsoft Kinect for the kitchen?

Intel demos its interactive surface technology

Intel's research and development labs have been working on an interactive 3D technology called OASIS, which may one day give consumers a whole new way of interacting with their shopping lists and everyday household items. The technology was showcased at the 2010 Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.

Read PC World Australia's full coverage of Intel Developer Forum 2010

OASIS is reminiscent of Microsoft's Surface technology in its end goal, but the technology it uses is different. Rather than relying on expensive hi-tech tabletops and benchtops, OASIS is designed to work on any surface -- or as Intel calls them 'Smart Computing Islands'. There are two physical components to it (not including the computer): an RGB-D camera and a laser pico-projector.

The camera is similar to the one used in Microsoft's Kinect and its job is to identify, analyse and track objects and user input across the area of the surface it's focused on. Depth data is used to isolate the object and hands from the background, and foreground objects form the basis of the user interface.

The projector is used to overlay an interactive interface on the surface, giving you information on products and allowing you to 'click' on menu items and adjust sliders, for example. When an object is identified by the camera, the interface turns it into a hot spot and it also provides context-specific information next to it.

In the demonstration we saw at the Intel Developer Forum, the technology was shown in the context of a kitchen environment (see below). It could be used to keep track of food in a pantry or freezer, as well as allow you to maintain shopping lists; it could be used to tell you how many of a particular product you have left and even whether you've left something out of the fridge or freezer too long. It can also be tuned to identify spills.

The purpose of OASIS is to make this type of 3D object analysis and tracking executable in real time on a low-cost processor. In the demonstration we saw, a Pentium-based laptop was running the OASIS software interface. Another key aspect of this technology is that it will be able to run on any surface — all you'll have to do is install the tracking and projecting unit in your ceiling or on the underside of your kitchen cabinets.

It's a technology that won't be available any time soon, but it's a snippet of what the Intel research labs have been getting up to recently, in conjunction with the University of Washington's Computer Science and Engineering department, and UW Design School.

Elias Plastiras flew to San Francisco as a guest of Intel.