It reads like a passage from a science fiction novel, but one day soon your Grandma will be able to pick up her tablet computer, take a short stroll around her favorite broken teacup, fix the cracks with a series of simple gestures and then send the resulting image to her 3D printer to make her set complete once again.

Brian Krzanich, the CEO of Intel, demonstrated a 3D scanning technology which goes by the name RealSense recently, and he and his company are betting a million dollars that developers will make the technology become as common as a webcam. To prove his point, Krzanich took the stage with an assistant who, holding nothing more than a tablet computer, circled a human model.

And then the magic happened.

As the demo played out, a 3D rendering of the model began to take shape on a huge screen behind the trio as Krzanich continued his pitch.

"Our goal is to just have a tablet that you can go out and buy that has this capability. Within two or three years, I want to be able to put it on a phone," Krzanich said. "The idea is you go out, you see something you like and you just capture it."

And the technology may be coming to a tablet near you by the end of next year. Krzanich says 3D scanners based on the RealSense software platform will be on the market during the third or fourth quarter of 2015.

At the core of the concept is the conceit that RealSense technology will reverse the way human beings interact with machines. Rather than users being required to understand how devices work, devices will one day learn and understand their users. The scanner itself is essentially a standard webcam – plus an infrared sensor to collect depth information – and Intel say it sees an object using the advanced depth cameras and duel array microphones. Users can then manipulate the resulting object with hand and finger gestures.

The Intel RealSense 3D camera and its software can detect finger level movements and render accurate gesture recognition. The camera can make sense of foregrounds and backgrounds and scan items in three dimensions.

The CEO of 3D Systems, Avi Reichental, said his firm plans to make a consumer version of 'Sense' scanning, editing and 3D printing software applications available as part of the Intel RealSense software development kit to allow for 3D printing.

The 3D scanner at the heart of the system is tiny enough to fit inside the narrow bezel of the smallest tablets.

Intel says RealSense Technology will "redefine the boundaries between human and computer interaction." The company is serious enough about the claim to offer a share of $1 million in prizes to developers capable of making it happen. The Intel RealSense App Challenge 2014 is aimed at spurring development for the brand new 3D gesture camera.