Google on Feb. 20 officially announced Project Tango, a project that's attempting to better integrate mobile devices into their physical, 3D surroundings. As part of the project, Google is inviting developers "with dreams of creating more than a touch-screen app" to create software for a smartphone prototype.
We are physical beings that live in a 3D world, yet mobile devices today assume that the physical world ends at the boundaries of the screen. Our goal is to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion.
– Johnny Chung Lee, Technical Program Lead at Google ATAP
Project Tango leverages more than 10 years of robotics and computer vision research. Lee spent nearly three years (2008-2011) as part of the Microsoft research team that developed Kinect, the company's motion-sensing technology for Xbox. (ATAP, for Advanced Technology and Projects, is a Google skunkworks division.)
A 5-inch smartphone was the first announced Project Tango device. The smartphone contains "highly customized hardware and software" that can track its physical, 3D location in real time. The smartphone's sensors make more than 250,000 3D location calculations every second.
Google on June 5 announced a tablet version of its Project Tango development kit. The kit, which will ship later in 2014 for $1024, comes with a 7-inch tablet created in "close collaboration" with Nvidia.
Today, developers excited about Project Tango can start building using the…
The smartphone runs a version of Android, with developers able to create apps using Java (the standard Android development language) and Unity, a popular software engine for creating video games. Some 200 prototypes are available for developers.
Google says Project Tango could be useful for things like creating accurate indoor maps (pictured) and more accurate 3D controls for video games. Users might also be able to model the interior of their home to better design how they might decorate it.