Project Tango brings real 3D imaging to mobile devices

    Earlier this month, Google launched Project Tango, an initiative allowing smart phones to “have a human-scale understanding of space and motion”. The projects has been aided by industry partners, research labs, and universities in nine different countries.

    The technology opens up a lot of new opportunities for developers. The project is not an application itself but instead a new functionality for mobile phones. It allows the camera of the phone to map the physical world in three dimensions.

    The current prototype is a simple android running, 5 inch phone. The sensors on the phone make over a quarter million 3D measurements every second. Those measurements update position and orientation and combine the information into a single 3D model of the surrounding area. The prototype includes APIs to provide position, orientation, and depth data to standard android applications. The project is still under development and are not in final products.

    Project Tango utilizes a vision processor called the Myriad 1, a product of Movidius. It is able to work by functioning as a co-processor similar to Apple’s motion sensing co-processor.

    The possibilities provided by such technology is limitless. The ability to map in real time an environment could be advantageous to everyone from gamers, to scientists. It also  has vast applications within the disabled community. Since the technology has only recently arrived we’ve yet to see the creativity that could be unleashed by such an advance. I can imagine several applications that would make 3D printing more accessible.

    Currently, there are projects in several different arenas.Augmented reality gaming could be realizable in future with such technology. Additionally a lot of application are in regards to the visual mapping. For instance first response units in emergency situations could be provided with a visual map of the house they are about to enter. A similar idea could be implemented to ease shopping or help the visually impaired.
Today, there are only 200 of the prototype devices and they available to developers with applications in mind. The application is available at http://www.google.com/atap/projecttango/.