One month ago, we learned about one of Google’s latest fantastically ambitious projects, using sensor-equipped smartphones to gather 3D data from the world around them, creating an internal map of their surroundings: Project Tango. It remains to be seen how this kind of tech might find a home in consumer-focused handsets, but for the moment Google is just interested in getting Tango out to developers and letting them see what they could pull off with this new tool at their disposal. After soliciting applications, Google has chosen its participants, and today we get to check out one of these Project Tango development kits.
The phone is seriously chunky, packed to the brim with scanning hardware, and has the unusual distinction of featuring separate USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports for charging and interfacing with PCs.
Its built-in software offers quick access to the handset’s cameras, including the all-important depth-mapping sensor; combining that with the rear-facing visible light camera produces composite shots like those you see above.
Mapping, at least with the tools Tango currently ships with, is a bit of a mixed bag. Locally, its scans are accurate enough, but over distances beyond several feet, sensor data tends to “drift,” losing its orientation relative to earlier scans; that sounds to us like problems with integration (like rocket scientists have to deal with), but with additional input, we’re hopeful that Tango’s software may be able to correct for that drift.
Keep in mind, this is all a very early look. We’ll be curious to see what developers manage to come up with themselves over the next several months, and also learn about what Google puts together for its next revision of this prototype hardware.