Intel RealSense D435: Intel’s answer to Kinect?

Today I placed a pre-order in for the Intel RealSense D435, a stereoscopic depth sensing camera that is the new flagship device from the Intel RealSense family. You may already be using a RealSense product in certain Ultrabooks since the RealSense modules are used for Windows Hello. The latest RealSense D400 class cameras feature an all new image and depth processors as well as stereo depth cameras. This is what really sets it apart from the Kinect, which just uses a single depth sensor paired with an active IR projector to improve depth data. Now with two depth cameras, you can get a wider FOV and still maintain acceptable resolution. The specs on paper are really quiet impressive, mainly regarding the resolution and FPS of the depth sensor. The D435 can gather depth data at a resolution of 1280 x 720 @ 90 FPS, which makes the Kinect v2’s depth data capture of 512 x 524 @ 30 FPS look pretty basic. Then again, the Kinect v2 was launched in 2013, so I expect Intel’s latest hardware to be better. Hardware aside, the D435 looks to be a worthy successor to the Kinect, but for my use case I care more about the software. The project I worked on last summer relied solely on the Kinect’s native skeletal tracking functionality in the Kinect for Windows SDK. Without that our time to market would have been greatly diminished if we took a more object tracking based approach to our application. We have continued to rely on the body tracking for other projects as well, so body tracking in our next camera is also a must. The Intel RealSense 2016 SDK did contain preview components of body tracking, but that is only limited to older RealSense cameras. Sadly, the RealSense SDK 2.0 which the D435 requires does not include any body tracking functionality. A company by the name of 3DIVI claims to have the solution with their NuiTrack SDK, which offers Kinect-like body tracking functionality with competing depth sensing cameras such as the Orbbec Astra. The website claims that Intel RealSense support is coming soon. Apparently Microsoft is referring Kinect customers to go with Intel RealSense for body tracking and my best bet is that Intel will have some sort of deal to work with NuiTrack. I have no idea if there is going to be any special licensing for RealSense customers or if we will have to pay the same licensing fee as someone who is using say the Orbbec Astra. We will just have to wait and see. According to my confirmation email, the D435 should ship out within 6 weeks, I’m hoping it comes much before then. So far my experience with the Orbbec Astra, a camera that we evaluated as a replacement for the Kinect even before Microsoft announced the discontinuation, has not been so great. The hardware doesn’t seem too bad, but the software is really what killed it for me. The current body tracking SDK, while in beta, is nowhere near that of the Kinect or even NuiTrack. The example program would often mistake my Herman Miller Aeron chair for a person and offered very poor tracking in poses and positions that are relevant to our application. There development pace has been picking up but is still pretty slow. I am not very likely to continue to pursue the Orbbec route and instead plan on sticking with RealSense along with NuiTrack. The combo offers better hardware and software than Orbbec and their own home grown SDK solution. Still, this will basically be a completely new platform overhaul, mainly due to the fact that we had a lot of .NET conveniences when developing with Kinect, and NuiTrack is based in C++. I am still learning C++, so jumping straight into a project involving sophisticated depth sensing equipment and interfacing with other peripherals will be quite a challenge. Then again, I do like these sort of challenges. I’ll post more about the D435 when I receive it as well as a deeper dive into the NuiTrack SDK once we buy a license. Stay tuned.




  1. Will Robertson says:

    I just received mine and did a side-by-side comparison between D435 and the Kinect v2 using the standard “viewer” apps. The Kinect v2 was far better at resolving detail; very disappointing that 5 years of progress has achieved nothing by way of accuracy. I would be interested to hear your impressions.


    1. Shravan says:

      Yikes. Was hoping for better initial results. I’ll do a write up as soon as I get mine.


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