Project Tango is one of Google’s more esoteric and interesting special projects from the Advanced Technology and Projects group, or ATAP, formerly a division of Motorola. The project is aiming at increasing the contextual awareness of our mobile devices by giving them the ability to interpret the world as we humans do, that is, in three dimensions. ATAP has been working with research laboratories, universities and industrial partners across the world, working in the field of robotics and computer vision with a focus towards mobile devices. There are two Project Tango devices, the first is a customised ‘phone and the second is a 7.0-inch tablet released as a Tablet Development Kit. Today’s story concerns the later tablet device and although we’ve covered the announcement of the Project Tango tablet built by LG, now it’s been through the FCC. We had heard that a Tango device will be released to the general public in 2015 but it was unclear if this would be a new device or not. It’s now looking like it’ll be the 7.0-inch tablet design as this is the model that’s been through the FCC.
Let’s take another look at this Project Tango tablet, which carries the model number NX-74751. As a point of interest, this happens to coincide with the USS Yellowstone, from the Star Trek Voyager series. One of Google’s ambitions is to make computing as easy as we see in the Star Trek universe (and we are getting there, if you’ve interacted with an Android Wear device, right?). Anyway, back on topic the Tango tablet has rather monstrous specifications but a definite shortage of Photon Torpedoes. The tablet comes with a quad core 32-bit 2.3 GHz Nvidia Tegra K1 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage, stereo speakers and a rechargeable battery of around 6,500 mAh. There’s a 7.0-inch screen and it’s powered by Android Kit Kat. In terms of specialised cameras and sensors, the Project Tango tablet has a front facing 120-degree camera, a rear mounted 4 MP camera complete with infrared functionality, a 170-degree motion tracking rear camera and an integrated depth sensor. The device also comes with high speed 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy and a 2G / 3G / 4G modem. So although it’s designed for 3D mapping, it will play nicely with Android Wear devices!
Google’s own documentation states that these sensors can make over a quarter of a million 3D measurements every second, updating position and orientation information in real time. Of course, here’s where the Tegra K1 comes into play as this mobile processor uses the same GPU (graphic processor unit) architecture as desktop systems. The K1 has 192-programmable GPU cores, which the Tango tablet puts to uses for the 3D modelling. Some of the proposed ideas of Project Tango include painting a 3D virtual battlefield in your living room, creating interactive, large scale tours for presentation purposes by estate agents and interior designers. Not to mention how much mapping data Google will acquire through having these devices out in the field… we may soon be seeing an impressive increase in the accuracy of Google Earth. Let’s see if the scary $1,024 price tag is reduced.