Google Project Tango: a phone that maps your world

Google has created a prototype Android phone that has a human-like understanding of the space through which it moves.

Google has created a prototype Android phone that has a human-like understanding of the space through which it moves.

(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

Google has just revealed one of the reasons why it kept Motorola's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) division when it sold off the company earlier this year: Project Tango.

Project Tango is a prototype smartphone with advanced mapping sensors and software that constantly calculates not only the movement of the phone, but the 3D space around it.

"Our current prototype is a 5" phone containing customized hardware and software designed to track the full 3D motion of the device, while simultaneously creating a map of the environment," Google explains. "These sensors allow the phone to make over a quarter million 3D measurements every second, updating its position and orientation in real-time, combining that data into a single 3D model of the space around you."

(Credit: Google)

Google lists potential applications from measuring your home before going furniture shopping, an extension of Google Maps, providing environmental information for vision-impaired people, and, of course, true augmented-reality gaming.

The phone itself runs on Android, with development APIs that provide position, orientation and depth data to Android apps written in Java, C/C+ and Unity. Google has created 200 prototype dev kits, which it hopes to ship to developers by 14 March. It's currently accepting applications on the Project Tango website, where you can pitch your ideas.

Someone definitely needs to write an app that tracks physical changes in your home environment. We'd never lose our keys again.

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