RealSense vs. Ruler: Fight!

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Gordon Mah Ung

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You don’t use a phonebook, film, or a typewriter anymore. Pretty soon, you may also add tape measure or ruler to that list of dead tech.

At least that’s what’s it looks like with such awesomely cool features as Intel’s RealSense camera, which let you take images with depth information and then use those images to get a measurement. To find out if the ruler or tape measure is also headed for the scrap heap, I decided to give Dell’s brand new Venue 8 7000 tablet and its RealSense camera a whirl.

To do that, I used the Venue 8 7000 to snap a photo of another Venue 8 7000 with my pocket tape on it.

As proof, here’s an image of the tablet shot with my EOS 5D Mk II. First, it’s worth mentioning that this sucker is thin at 6mm but I want to know how long it is. As you can see, the new Venue 8 is just a tick under 8.5 inches in length. 

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Here’s how large Dell’s Venue 8 7000 is

To measure using the RealSense camera in the Venue 8 7000 all you do is fire up the camera application, frame it and then snap it. What’s cool is you don’t need to think about it ahead of time. You don’t have to, say, intend to measure the object and fire up an app to do that aty the time you capture the image. Any image you take with the Venue 8 7000 can be used to take a measurement. All you have to do is pull it up in the gallery and tap the ruler icon. You then click one point and the second point and Venue 8 7000 analyses the meta data it has stored from the 3D image and spits out the measurement.

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As you select the points you want to measure, a small bubble pops up with a zoomed in image to let you fine tune your selection point

Think of it as a tablet selfie

So how did the Venue 8 7000 do? Not bad actually. As you can see from the image, the Venue 8 7000’s image of the, umm, Venue 8 7000 with the tape measure on it put it at 8-inches in length. That’s off a little—it’s actually 8.4 inches in length. 

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Saying something is shorter than it is might offend

So where did the half inch go? In the interest of full disclosure, the unit wasn’t final and an OTA update had just been pushed out to it. Dell also said it is still fine tuning the accuracy of the tablet. In fact, if you bought one today, the ruler feature would not be activated initially. That won’t happen for a few more weeks.

Dell also said accuracy will depend on how far away the object is. From 3 feet to 15 feet, it’s about 98 percent accurate. And from 15 feet to 20 feet its 90 to 93 percent. Beyond 20 feet, it’s too far away to be accurate at all.

You’ll also need good lighting and the tablet has to held parallel to the object being measured. 

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The ability of the Venue 8 7000 to measure an object depends on how parallel it is to I the camera.

Don’t throw away your tape rule just yet

As you can see from the above image of a couch, the width is pretty good since that’s lined up with the plane of the RealSense camera in the Venue 8 7000. But trying to measure the height and depth of the object isn’t useful since those aren’t parallel. This couch is not, for example, 1-foot, 3-inches deep. Such a couch couldn't hold even half a butt cheek on it. Well, at least not mine anyway.

I’d prefer it if the app would warn you that measuring dimensions not parallel to the camera could be wildly off. But again, this isn’t final hardware nor software I’m futzing with.

I can see the utility of it, as long as I stick within its limitations. For now though, I’m keeping my tape measure and rulers around.

Since this is one of the first chances I’ve gotten to handle a near-production Android tablet with Intel’s Bay Trail M Atom in it, I decided to do a run a quick benchmark for kicks. I’m not convinced performance testing on Android tablets is where it should be quite yet but it’s always fun to look at numbers so I ran Antutu on the Venue 8 7000.

Again, this isn’t quite final so any numbers should be taken with a chunk of salt but here.

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AnTuTu puts the Intel quad-core 2.3GHz Atom about on par with the One Plus One and behind the Samsung Note 4.

The numbers here are OK. Not stellar, but respectable. In general use the Venue 8 7000 also felt quite responsive despite it being fondled by a few hundred people by the time I touched it. I’ll have a better idea when a final reviewable product is in my hands in the office.

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