Google’s Project Tango allows mobile devices to gain awareness of the space around us.
Could the technology be as game-changing as the iPhone or is it just another shot at the moon?
Project Field of Dreams
Google’s Project Tango is the closest we’ve come to a ‘build it and they will come’ attitude in tech.
It takes everything that is already revolutionary about the progression of smartphones as tiny hubs for every sensor imaginable and doubles it.
The goal is no less than letting a phone or tablet have an understanding of what the real world is actually like as accurately as you or I.
At the heart of that intention is a panoply of sensors studding the outside of the prototype devices.
As well as everything you would expect from a smartphone – a camera on the back and front and a gyroscope and accelerometer – the Project Tango devices have extra input.
Accompanying the rear camera is an infrared emitter constantly emitting an invisible grid across the world and an infrared camera picking up the reflections the grid makes.
If that sounds familiar it’s because it’s similar in principle to how Microsoft’s Kinect system works.
But rather than being pointed at you it’s pointed at the wider room.
That’s matched with super accurate versions of internal sensors common in other phones such as the accelerometer – gyroscope and barometer (which measures air pressure but can also be used to determine altitude) to provide the phone with everything it needs to build up a super accurate map of the world and its location within it.
A year and a half after it was announced I went to see the kit as it stands today.
The hardware has gone through a few iterations – the latest version of the development kit is now in a tablet form factor rather than a mobile phone and in August it went on sale to developers in the UK for the first time –
– but it’s what it does which immediately grabs the attention.