Google’s Project Tango

Google’s Project Tango

Posted On: February 25, 2014
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Google has revealed a cell phone with a built in 3D scanner that could revolutionise navigation. Called Project Tango, the phone can build up a live 3D map of its surrounding area.

It will initially only be sold to developers, who Google hope will develop everything from satnav apps to games similar to those found on Microsoft’s Xbox, which uses the 3D Kinect sensor.

As we walk through our daily lives, we use visual cues to navigate and understand the world around us. We observe the size and shape of objects and rooms, and we learn their position and layout almost effortlessly over time. This awareness of space and motion is fundamental to the way we interact with our environment and each other. We are physical beings that live in a 3D world. Yet, our mobile devices assume that physical world ends at the boundaries of the screen.

The goal of Project Tango is to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion.

Over the past year, Google’s team has been working with universities, research labs, and industrial partners spanning nine countries around the world to harvest research from the last decade of work in robotics and computer vision, concentrating that technology into a unique mobile phone. Now, they’re ready to put early prototypes into the hands of developers that can imagine the possibilities and help bring those ideas into reality.

What is it?

The current prototype is a 5” phone containing customized hardware and software designed to track the full 3D motion of the device, while simultaneously creating a map of the environment. These sensors allow the phone to make over a quarter million 3D measurements every second, updating its position and orientation in real-time, combining that data into a single 3D model of the space around you.

It runs Android and includes development APIs to provide position, orientation, and depth data to standard Android applications written in Java, C/C++, as well as the Unity Game Engine. These early prototypes, algorithms, and APIs are still in active development. So, these experimental devices are intended only for the adventurous and are not a final shipping product.

What could I do with it?

What if you could capture the dimensions of your home simply by walking around with your phone before you went furniture shopping? What if directions to a new location didn’t stop at the street address? What if you never again found yourself lost in a new building? What if the visually-impaired could navigate unassisted in unfamiliar indoor places? What if you could search for a product and see where the exact shelf is located in a super-store?

Imagine playing hide-and-seek in your house with your favorite game character, or transforming the hallways into a tree-lined path. Imagine competing against a friend for control over territories in your home with your own miniature army, or hiding secret virtual treasures in physical places around the world?

How do I get one?

Google are looking for professional developers with dreams of creating more than a touch-screen app. These devices were built with the unique ability to sense 3D motion and geometry. Googlee want partners who will push the technology forward and build great user experiences on top of this platform.

Currently, Google have 200 prototype dev kits. They have allocated some of these devices for projects in the areas of indoor navigation/mapping, single/multiplayer games that use physical space, and new algorithms for processing sensor data. They have also set aside units for applications they haven’t thought of yet. If you’d like to get involved, tell them what you would build on their project page.

They expect to distribute all of their available units by March 14th, 2014.