Google unveils Project Tango: 3D environment mapping tech for smartphones

Google unveils Project Tango: 3D environment mapping tech for smartphonesIn the Google/Motorola divorce settlement, Google was given sole custody of the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group. They’re the guys tinkering with the Project Ara modular phone stuff we’ve been hearing about.

The ATAP guys have just announced another cheeky project that’s been in the works for the past year, something called Project Tango. Essentially, it looks to use smartphones to map the world around you in 3D. Interesting.

Head guy Johnny Lee spills Project Tango juice over on Google+ (more info here), and indeed it comes as no surprise to learn that he was heavily involved in the development of Kinect for Xbox.

Johnny writes: “As we walk through our daily lives, we use visual cues to navigate and understand the world around us. We use our eyes to observe the size and shape of objects and rooms, and we learn their position and layout over time almost effortlessly.

“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.”

But what does it all mean? Well, we’re told some practical uses of Project Tango could include mapping the dimensions of your home before going furniture shopping (i.e. before going to Ikea), and tracking a product to an exact shelf in a super-store.

The most impressive notion, for my money, is the idea of the visually impaired being able to “navigate unassisted in unfamiliar indoor places”. Nice.

Google has 200 Project Tango prototype kits up for grabs (running Android, obviously), and aims to distribute them starting March. It’s probably not too much of a stretch to imagine getting some sort of sneak preview at Mobile World Congress (MWC) next week.

Read more about: Android

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