While there were plenty of innovative offerings competing for the spotlight at last week's Consumer Electronics Show, it was Intel's new twist on a typically mundane office accessory that had attendees eagerly waiting in line for hours.
The chip giant's floorspace at the Las Vegas show was always packed, with curious show attendees trying to get a peek at its creepy, crawly spider dress, virtual reality headsets and flying drones. But a small kiosk at the side of the booth drew the longest lines.
It was here that people waited up to eight hours to take home a paperweight.
Yes, a paperweight.
But it was no ordinary paperweight. They were personalized keepsakes with a subject's 3D likeness etched inside a glass cube. The magic was created with Intel's RealSense technology, a 3D camera system embedded inside a tablet. While the subject stayed very still for about 45 seconds, an Intel employee slowly walked around the person, using the tablet to capture images from all angles of the face, head and torso.
Intel could churn out a cube every seven minutes, but that was not fast enough to keep down the queue of attendees waiting to have their moment to strike the pose that would be frozen in glass for eternity.
"RealSense is basically a set of cameras that include the ability through infrared and other depth-sensing capabilities to see everything with a depth perspective," Intel's CEO Brian Krzanich told CNET.
The photographic data is then ingested into a computer, edited and sent off to the laser etching printer. "Basically, I'm breaking up the world in very thin layers. That's what [RealSense] does. It takes all of those thin layers and puts it into an image," Krzanich explained.
In a matter of seconds, parts of the body start to emerge in the middle of the glass cube. And in just a few minutes, the entire subject is completed with an uncanny likeness to the real person. Details like stripes, jewelry and sweatshirt graphics are captured with stunning accuracy. And if the subject remained still enough, the facial features and hair styling should be recognizably nuanced as well.
Intel is using this experimental technology in all sorts of different projects, like enhanced cameras that allow for changing focus after the picture is taken to drones that can deftly fly around objects. "It allows us to do a lot of things around depth. Now that I know I can change focus, I can measure distances and prevent myself from running into you. I can do all kinds of things with it," said Krzanich.
But before some of those prototypes become a reality, the hundreds of CES attendees fortunate, or patient, enough to take home their glass cube will always have their own little piece of Intel's technology staring back at them from their desk.