Intel are releasing a development kit that lets robots see in 3D

Depth perception for all

We recently wrote about a 3D-scanning mirror that tracks your body dimensions, which could be useful for people trying to lose weight or build muscle. The mirror uses an advanced 3D-scanning camera system and has built-in computing power to process the visuals and send the data to a smartphone app. Those innards are powered by Intel and will soon be released as a development kit so we can all play with this 3D-scanning tech.

Intel aren’t new to 3D-scanning cameras. A whole bunch of laptops and tablets have Intel 3D cameras built-in and there’s already a development kit available for the Intel RealSense SR300 camera, which is designed to scan the user rather than the environment ahead. The new robotics development kit is for the Intel RealSense R200, which is the tech used in the Naked 3D Fitness Tracker. It’s powerful, really compact, and designed to scan the environment making it perfect for robotics enthusiasts.

The camera piece actually uses 3 cameras including an RGB camera for colour and 2 infrared cameras for depth. There’s also a laser that scans the environment to perceive how everything comes together in 3D. The camera itself has been available for a while at $99 (£69) to use in tablets but the upcoming release is a development kit for robotics that includes a credit card-sized board for interfacing with the rest of your project.

Image © Intel

The board is powerful for its size, which is necessary to process the images from the R200 cameras and create 3D models. It’s basically a more powerful and more expensive Raspberry Pi and about the same size. It uses an Intel Atom processor (1.44Gh=Hz up to 1.92GHz), 4GB RAM and 32GB of eMMC storage. The GPU is the Intel HD 400, which makes it much better at graphics processing than the Raspberry Pi.

There are lots of ways to interface with the rest of your project including a general purpose, 40-pin bus. The ports include a single USB 3.0 port, 4 USB 2.0 ports, a camera interface, HDMI, and ethernet. There’s also a real-time clock built-in. The board comes ready with support for the Linux distro Ubuntu but other operating systems will be compatible with some work (i.e. community projects).

The point of the development kit is to deliver a high performance but low cost solution so people can more easily bridge the gap between quick prototypes and making final products. It’s also cheap enough that robotics enthusiasts might grab it for private projects. Thanks to Intel, my own robot can now see puny humans cowering in fear as it advances.

The Intel RealSense Robotic Development Kit is available for pre-order at $249 (£174) and is expected to ship in June.

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