Google’s Project Tango is about combining specialized camera sensors with high powered computing components in order to provide the device with a lot of information about its immediate environment. The technology may be used to allow a smartphone or tablet to measure distances or identify objects, plus it can be used for mapping purposes. Google’s refinement of the technology has a definite indoor bias about it, as these represent a smaller, more contained environment for the device to map. However, the story today is that several drone and quadcopter manufacturers are interested in using the Project Tango visualization technology into their drones.
This fits into Google’s plans to extend Project Tango beyond phones and tablets to encompass at least robots and drones. In the immediate future, Project Tango hardware and software has a natural home in devices that are designed to be very visual and local. One case study idea for Project Tango is how a suitably equipped smartphone will be able to measure a couch and help the potential customer device if it will fit into a room at home. However, the technology is able to go much deeper than this: Project Tango devices will be able to map out a store, recognize signs and objects on sale, guide customers to a particular aisle and of course track their previous locations. Perhaps Project Tango technology will make a trip to an IKEA store less stressful! The technology is being trialed in shopping malls to help customers find where they need to be. Other potential uses for the technology include the gaming and virtual reality markets, where 3D models from the real world may be transported into a virtual world.
Google is currently working on pushing the price down of the various depth perspective and imagery sensors necessary for a Project Tango device. It is also working with hardware manufacturers to recognize and locate complicated objects when outside, as infrared energy from the sun can confuse sensors and many more objects are moving. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show, Las Vegas, Lenovo and Google announced a worldwide Project Tango smartphone, which should be out by the middle of the year and cost under $500. Intel have announced a large screen smartphone (6.5-inch) containing a 3D RealSense camera, which supports both the RealSense SDK and Project Tango SDK. Both these devices will include the necessary cameras and sensors for a Project Tango handset.