Up close with Intel's perceptual computing technology

Intel is showcasing a new technology that could change the way people interact with computers at this week’s Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. The technology—dubbed “perceptual computing”—relies on a webcam, a piece of software, and a software development kit from data that lets hardware and software exchange data.

Intel just released the technology to all developers in beta form. Consumers should be able to get their hands on a finished version—which will include pre-loaded apps—in the next year.

The movement detection going on here may remind you of Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect. They do use similar technology, but Intel’s version is designed for shorter distances—like the distance between you and your PC.

For a taste of what is possible, Intel brought a previously internal-only mock-up program to the GDC called Treasure Cave. It performs a simple internal computation using physics, rather than the basic computer vision that most games can display now. Treasure Cave shows how closely the camera can read a real hand and place it in a virtual world.

The technology can certainly be used in games. But Intel also expects it to find a use in biometrics—reading a face for security purposes, say. Another possible use would be combining perceptual computing with speech and augmented reality to compliment work environments where people cannot directly touch keyboards.

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