Google has announced its new venture Project Tango today, a smartphone and developer kit that integrates 3D sensors allowing the device to learn and map the world around it. "The goal of Project Tango is to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion," explained Jonny Lee of the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) - Project Tango Team.
The current 5-inch Android smartphone prototype is being put into the hands of developers. The device is said to contain custom hardware and software designed to not only track motion, but build a visual map using 3D scanning of its environment.
The first wave of sign-ups will be limited to a group of 200 developers, chosen after evaluation, where each candidate will provide Google with a clear vision of what they plan to build with the device. All devices are expected to be allocated by 14th March and Mountain View will be looking mainly at developers interested in building apps for “indoor navigation/mapping, single/multiplayer games that use physical space, and new algorithms for processing sensor data.” APIs for the device remain a work in progress whilst developers will be free to write apps in Java, C/C++ plus help from the Unity Game Engine.
Google believes that many opportunities can be made from the device's combination of sensors and advanced computer vision techniques with potential avenues including; indoor navigation, 3D scanning, immersive gaming and many more. Hopes of the device unlocking new applications are also high since developers can now create functions for a device with a near human-like understanding of space, something not possible before in such a handy package.
The Tango's sensor is a vision processor called Myriad 1, from Movidius, according to TechCrunch. The chip is said to be extremely power efficient compared to other 3D-sensing chips on the market, a main issue that was preventing the technology from being integrated into a smartphone previously.
The Advanced Technology and Projects group was also responsible for Project Ara, an initiative to build modular smartphones taken when Google owned Motorola. The 16 R&D partners of Project Tango include Movidius, Bosch, OmniVision and the Open Source Robotics Foundation.
Google Maps update goes live
After having previewed the upgrade last May, a new version of Google Maps is now becoming more widely available offering a cleaner new look and improved navigation tools. Google says maps are smarter and help you get places faster thanks to more efficient routing and real time traffic reports.
Users can now also view locations with 3D imagery from Google Earth.