A good few projects in Google's wheelhouse managed to garner huge excitement, only to mostly go quiet, pumping out little bits of information on their progress every few months. Project Tango is one such project. Designed to help smartphones and tablets "see" the world around them the way a person does, Project Tango consists of additional cameras and sensors that are capable of capturing 3D imagery of a space, accurate to within a few inches. News broke on Thursday that Google is looking to make use of Tango to expand Google Maps and Street View. Specifically, they plan to begin adding indoor maps, showing the interior of various places in all the detail that a Project Tango rig can muster. The kicker is that there are plans to use this new imagery for a wide variety of things from advertising to VR, rather than simply giving users new Street View perspectives.
Job postings and insider sources point to an expansion of Project Tango that seems aimed at making the new technology a household name, which could very well be how Google plans to obtain all of this indoor mapping data, though it's just as likely that we may see Google employees with Tango tablets poking around businesses, stadiums and the like in the near future. In any case, the plan is for Google to make the data obtained through Tango easily available to developers for virtual reality applications. The maps are also intended to be easily shared, allowing them to be patched together into a cohesive framework. One vacant home or willing homeowner at a time, entire cities may become explorable in VR thanks to this new initiative.
Naturally, the venture is rife with opportunities for just about anybody. Nathan Pettyjohn of Aisle 411 spoke excitedly on the prospects, saying "if Tango could digitize every single physical commerce place, then all of a sudden Google has an exponential opportunity to place very relevant contextual physical advertising in every space,". Naturally, the implications for a future where augmented reality is the new way to interact with the digital world are huge, as well; AR advertising, gaming and other applications suddenly becoming situationally and geographically aware could drastically change how they work. The prospect of space-aware VR headsets that can automatically map out even small spaces for users to engage in their use could prove to be a challenge to established players like the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift. For now, of course, the nascent technology is still not far enough along to make such things a reality. Google plans to show off Tango's progress at the upcoming Google I/O developer conference next week.