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Jolt Awards 2014: The Best Programmer Libraries

, April 22, 2014 Astonishing collections of software bundled with superb design and coding tools
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Finalist: Intel Perceptual Computing SDK

For many years, Intel has sold high-performance libraries that are custom optimized to exploit every last nook and cranny of x86 processors. The company's Integrated Performance Primitives (algorithm library) and Math Kernel Library are among the fastest in their respective domains, and are updated regularly as new features appear in the microprocessors that can be leveraged beneficially. And in parallel computing, of course, the open source Threading Building Blocks (TBB) represents one of the easiest ways to handle concurrency effectively using C++.

Intel's attention these last few years has been in new areas where it wants to secure a foothold for its processors. Central to these efforts has been mobile development, where the company has put forth two impressive libraries: the Intel XDK (billed as the "a front-to-back HTML5 app development environment for cross-platform apps") and the Intel Perceptual Computing SDK, which made it through to the finalist round of this year's Jolt Awards.

The SDK is touted as "a library of pattern detection and recognition algorithm implementations exposed through standardized interfaces." This is an accurate description, but incomplete. The SDK specializes in pattern recognition and response in webcams. For example, the SDK provides algorithms that recognize where a face is located, track its movements, do background subtraction, identify whether the face is smiling, respond to a few gestures, and (through integration with Nuance) respond to voice. The library is in C++, but also supports C# on Windows 7 and 8 (running .NET 4.0 or later). Java is also supported for some applications. The SDK is free and regularly updated.

(Note: While we like the idea of Intel exploring new ground and saving developers considerable time by providing these implemented algorithms, we're somewhat disappointed to discover that since the Jolt Awards were voted on, Intel has announced the library will be renamed and rebranded as the Intel RealSense SDK, which will be tied directly to the upcoming RealSense 3D Camera the company announced earlier this year. How intimately the algorithms become specific to that camera will determine the usefulness of the SDK going forward.) — Andrew Binstock

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