Google's Latest Experiment: What is Project Tango?

Google's Latest Experiment: What is Project Tango?

Project Tango has officially left Google’s ATAP lab (Advanced Technology and Projects), indicating that this technology will soon be in the hands of consumers.

As it stands today, the Project Tango hardware and software has been built into a tablet and smartphone that can see the world in the way that humans do. Development Kits are now being sold in the US for $512 in what will be an essential step of the journey.

Developers are being encouraged to build the apps and games that will take advantage of a device that understands space and motion in the same way that we do.

The Project Tango technology can navigate the physical word using the Android device platform, coupled with advanced image processing, vision sensors and computer vision. This next generation of spatial experiences will take AR (Augmented Reality), VR (Virtual Reality) and AL (Area Learning) technologies and place them into a hand-held smartphone or tablet.

This will allow consumers to take the technology out into the real world, whereas VR devices like the Oculus Rift, will for now, only have practical implementations within the home or business premises.

The Developer Kit comes in the form of a 7” tablet with an IPS display and a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels. Weighing slightly more than a traditional tablet, at 370 grams, they have a dual battery combination giving a total capacity of 4960mAh. The existence of these kits already proves the technology and LG are reportedly working with Google to create the first consumer model, scheduled for release later this year.

Project Tango technology

Project Tango combines several pieces of hardware in order to understand its surroundings and while making a quarter of a million 3D measurements per second. The first of these hardware modules the NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor, which has 192 GPU cores. The Tegra K1 has been built to the same architecture that drives extreme gaming PCs and the world’s fastest supercomputer in the US.

The motion tracking camera, integrated infrared depth sensor and 4MP camera work together to collect real-time info about the 3D motion of the Project Tango mobile device.

Depth sensors shape up the world around it and provide the device with its ability to understand its position and orientation.

Area learning uses visual cues to recognise the world and are used to auto-correct for errors in motion tracking. The final result is the Project Tango experience where the virtual world reacts in synchrony with the real world.

Real-world application

While VR headsets, like the Samsung Gear VR, offer a completely immersive experience, they are restricted in their real-world application by their size. It is unlikely that anyone will want to walk down the high street wearing a headset of this size. So, until the technology is miniaturised further, Project Tango will deliver a more consumer friendly experience that will not have its users looking ridiculous.

So, what are the real-world applications of Project Tango?

1. Exploration – the LG Project Tango device may be used as an indoor way finder in large buildings or it could be used to tackle one of life’s greatest frustrations by offering the ability to select and find products on a supermarket’s shelves.
2. Gaming – movement driven gaming will be designed to measure the players world, while walk through stories will unfold as the immediate environment is explored, with a combination of augmented and virtual realities.
3. Creative freedom – interactive 3D drawing will provide many different applications for both the professional and personal user. Apps may include CAD design and 3D modelling.
4. Measuring – sensors could be used to map the dimensions of a home prior to making a furniture purchase.
5. Navigation – it may also create an alternative to the guide dog for the visually impaired.

These real-world applications are just the tip of the iceberg but one thing is certain, the way we explore and interact with the world is about to change in a big way.