What is Google's Tango?

And why do I want it in my phone?

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
2 min read
Watch this: What is Tango?

Google's Tango is hard to explain. The new feature, which will first be available on the Lenovo Phab2 Pro superphone this September, is an indoor mapping technology...but it's also augmented reality. You can measure objects! Take dinosaur selfies! Live out your Ghostbuster fantasies.

Perhaps most impressively, you can construct an elaborate chain of dominos across your entire house -- dominos only you can see -- and knock them all down without having any mess to clean up later. How can a smartphone be indoor Google Maps and a window to another world at the same time?

I could tell you, but it's so much easier to show you. Just watch the video above.

Still a little confused? Let me take one last stab at breaking Tango down.

"Two cameras see the world in 3D" = When you take a picture with a normal camera, it's flat. You don't know how far away objects actually are. With two cameras, and/or a time-of-flight sensor like the one inside this Phab2 Pro, the camera sees depth as well. It knows how far away your walls, floors and furniture are.

"Map your room and know where you are" = Tango can create digital 3D maps of your surroundings, and memorize them. Then, based on the memorized landmarks it's seen, it can figure out where your phone is (and even its orientation) compared to those landmarks. Watch Google explain it right here.

"See virtual objects on top of the real world" = Once your phone knows precisely where your furniture is, where your phone is and which direction it's facing, it can act like a window into a virtual world. You can place virtual dominos on top of your real-world table, as if they only existed in an alternate reality you can see through the window of your phone. It's like Microsoft's HoloLens, but in a phone.

Just remember this: it takes two (cameras) to Tango.