Project Tango is a phone that has built-in depth sensors that make it easy to build a 3D model of its surroundings. The question is what are you going to do with it.?
Until now Google has kept out of the 3D revolution that was ushered in by the success of the Microsoft Kinect. But with Apple having just bought PrimeSense, the original designers of the Kinect, it seems like a good time for something new to roll out of the Googleplex.
Project Tango derives from Motorola's Advanced Technology and Projects group, which wasn't sold to Lenovo along with the rest of the Motorola Mobility assets that Google acquired in 2011.
It also seems that Tango is going to be introduced very slowly ,in the same way that Google Glass is being drip fed into the world. At the moment there are only 200 Tango devices and they are up for grabs by any developer who can convince Google that they have a good idea for a Tango app.
It has a standard 4MP camera on the back plus an integrated depth sensor and a motion tracking camera. This allows the phone to work out its orientation and, putting this together with a quarter of a million 3d measurements per second, allow it to construct a 3D model.
This is very similar to the Kinect Fusion program that creates realtime models but built into a phone size package.
The depth sensor is a Myriad 1 from Movidius. This is a custom chip that uses GPU type architecture to produce lots of processing power without draining the battery. The custom software runs under Android, i.e. Tango is an Android phone. The apps are written in Java using C/C++ for the added speed processing so much data involves.
The video Google has produced shows the device being used for augmented reality applications and games that project out into the physical world.
Other application ideas include location and navigation tasks. It could, for example, guide you through a super-store to the product you wanted. It could also provide the 3D capture power needed to build the 3D equivalent of Google Street View.
If we all carried a 3D scanner in our phones it wouldn't take long to convert the entire world into a 3D model.
If you want to participate then simply fill in the form and wait. The allocation should be complete in time for a March 14th roll out.