Intel’s big news this week at CES is that more 9th-generation processors are coming later this year. But lurking in the company’s booth are a couple of wheelchairs you can control with facial expressions.

The chairs read your mug using a RealSense camera, Intel’s camera that can track things in a 3D space. We haven’t heard about RealSense in some time because better, higher resolution 3D cameras are being made by others, but Intel is still using its tech for some interesting applications, like detecting facial expressions. It could, for example, monitor the pain of patients in an ICU.

Or it could make things more accessible for people with disabilities. We did a quick drive around in the wheelchair after they programmed the camera to recognize my face. The vehicle was programmed to march forward when I smiled, to brake when I puckered my lips, to go one direction when I lifted my eyebrows, and the other direction when I lowered them. It wasn’t perfect. Apparently, my eyebrows are too expressive because I kept going in circles.

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Intel says there are about 60 chairs in the wild now, and they’re being used to learn more facial expressions. The hope is that in the future chair users will be able to program the chair with whatever expressions they feel comfortable with. The tech is a long way off, but it’s still an exciting use of an overpriced webcam.

Follow along with all of our CES 2019 coverage here.

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About the author

Alex Cranz

Senior Consumer Tech Editor. Trained her dog to do fist bumps. Once wrote for Lifetime. Tips encouraged via Secure Drop, Proton Mail, or DM for Signal.

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