What You Need to Know About "Project Tango" From Google

Published: Jan 08, 2016 14:01pm EST
By Lance Rinker, Managing Editor for Konsume Technology

Please Note: This article was updated Jan 08, 2016 @ 02:18pm EST

 

If you’re not too familiar with Google’s “Project Tango” don’t worry – you’re not the only one. In a nutshell, Project Tango is a new technology that allows phones and tablets with computer vision sensors packed into them to do 3D indoor mapping, depth sensing, augmented reality, and whatever else developers can come up with.

Project Tango has been in development for several years now, with Google and LG announcing at Google I/O 2014 they had a commercial product coming in 2015. That never happened and then both Intel and Qualcomm showed off Project Tango prototypes in 2015. However, the biggest news for such an ambitious project came at CES 2016, where Google and Lenovo announced the first commercial Tango device would launch this summer.

“We locked arms with Google to bring out a consumer device based on Tango,” said Lenovo Vice President Jeff Meredith during the announcement.

What We Know?

All we currently know about the technical specs of this soon-to-be consumer device is its screen will be between 6- and 6.5 inches, run some version of the Android OS, and cost less than $500. We’d have a much better idea of what the smartphone will actually look like and how it would function if the tech giants showed off a physical prototype, but they did not have one readily available to showcase during the announcement.

Qualcomm, a leader in 3G and next-generation mobile technologies, will be developing the chips required to power this new technology, and make any Tango device fully functional. The devices will also run on some version of Android OS, though it has yet to be confirmed whether it will be an existing version or a newly developed one solely for use on the Tango device.

How Does It Work?

Much of what allows this smartphone/3D technology to do what it does is through a collection of sensors that enables “six degrees of freedom”. This allows the device to determine its position and orientation within a physical environment, such as your kitchen, by determining its three axes of orientation and three axes of motion. All input received from the cameras will be processed by the build-in Snapdragon processor, though no details have emerged on whether it will be a new version of Snapdragon or not, and used to build the 3D representation of whatever space you are in.

Project Tango released a developer kit in 2014, and according to Google more than 3,000 have been sold. Interested developers have until February 15 to submit app ideas to Google. Any ideas that impress will be pre-installed on the Tango device when shipped to consumers.

What Can It Do?

This is where things get interesting. Sure, any new breakthrough in 3D or Virtual Reality technology, especially for personal use on your smartphone is amazing. But the Tango device seems to offer some pretty practical purposes with the only real limits being what you can think of as a developer (similar to 3D printing in that way).

The uses range from playing a virtual game using the physical spaces around you, such as Jenga, virtually redecorating your home to see just how something would look before you invest money into it, assist robots in navigating your home to do chores, and essentially anything you can think of using augmented reality. The phone will also be able to map the inside of buildings, which on the surface seems to be useful for navigating buildings you’ve never been to before and for fire and rescue. 

 

For additional hardware and tech specifications, check out the hardware page at the Project Tango website


 

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Lance Rinker
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