Much like how touch interfaces have revolutionized mobile computing, 3D depth-sensing technology is poised to be the next big thing. Make no mistake; established market players such as Microsoft have been exploring this area for years, slowly refining their Kinect system with no real competition. However, with the impending launch of new 3D tools by Intel, the Redmond-based firm might soon have something to worry about.

According to IDG News, Intel’s 3D camera will bring far more interactivity to the table than previous systems. One such skill is the ability to identify facial expressions as a way to gauge one’s mood or satisfaction; possibly using this feature to rank previously played video games and movies. Similarly, the facial tracking technology can decipher whether a child is struggling with a reading exercise, going so far as to singling out the particular word that’s causing them trouble.

A secondary use for the system would be the emerging field of 3D printers. The Intel camera can effectively scan any object, using its aptitude to accurately assess distance, size, depth, color and contours, among other parameters. “You are not going to look for a case anymore, you'll just point that device, and the cameras will recognize what you have. It'll know the model number...and it'll print [the case] for you, or you go to the store, they will print it for you," explained Anil Nanduri, the director of perceptual products and solutions at Intel.

Furthermore, the technology could also be used to bring forth a more interactive gaming experience, much like how the Xbox Kinect and Nintendo Wii have done in recent years.

The eventual hope for Intel is to integrate the 3D cameras into laptops and ultrabooks by the second half of 2014. As of late, Intel has been working alongside Logitech to develop the Senz3D, an external webcam that will predate these integrated offerings, expected to debut in the next few quarters. As is probably evident by now, the camera technology will eventually find its ways into both tablets and smartphones; although this progression will admittedly take some time.

When comparing Intel's new system to Microsoft Kinect, Nanduri explained that the Intel camera is better designed for short-range uses, adding, "Kinect was a good initial version of a depth camera more from a long range perspective. When Intel started looking at it, we were primarily looking at it as more personal interaction, short range, which is probably a meter or meter-and-a-half range of interaction."