It’s been rumored for a while, but Project Tango seems finally to be stepping out of the shadows. Just one of the many, many weird ideas you can find at Google’s “secret” lab, Project Tango. So what, precisely, IS Tango?
1. It’s A 3D Mapping Process Packed Into A Tablet
Essentially, Project Tango is a way for your smartphone to better understand the world around you. The prototype tablet uses a depth sensor and two cameras to measure your overall environment and develop an understanding of where you are and what’s around you. Which we know sounds pretty cool, but it actually gets quite a bit cooler once you understand the implications.
2. It Opens A New Door For Apps
Imagine this, for a moment. You want to put a new sofa in your living room, but you’re not entirely sure it’s going to fit where the old sofa will. With Project Tango, you can hold up the tablet, scan the room, and then receive data about your new sofa… and determine whether it will fit.
Essentially, it would create a new class of applications, with the ability to scan a three-dimensional space and work out how it interacts with other three dimensional spaces. You could put it in a car and never have to worry about whether or not you’ll fit in a parking space ever again. You could put it on a tablet with CAD software and assemble the pieces of a machine bit by bit. Really, the possibilities of Tango are tantalizing, and these are just the obvious applications; there are likely others nobody’s worked out yet.
3. Tango Hardware Is Designed To Handle PC Software
One of the problems involved with jumping from PCs to tablets is that tablets, while surprisingly powerful for their size, just don’t have the sheer oomph of many PCs. Google is building Tango with chips like NVidia’s K1, which imitates the GPU architecture of a PC. That’s important because much of the work done in 3D modeling has been done with desktop computers, and being able to transfer over the software is going to make or break how Tango is used.
4. You’re Not Going To Be Able To Get One For A While
If you’d like to play with Google’s magic space-scanning tablet, well, you’d better have a lot of money and be ready to develop something resembling meaningful software for it. Google is going to be charging $1024 for the first round of Tango, and these are development kits, not consumer products. Which is interesting not least because it means Google is still trying to figure out whether Tango is worth incorporating into consumer products, or is more of a professional type of item.
Either way, expect some pretty amazing things over the next few months, as more and more brainpower goes into figuring out how to explain the world around us to your phone. And unlike Google Glass, you might actually get something out of this beta test!
Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.