Don’t bother checking you calendars, it isn’t April 1st. With that out of the way, Google was able to throw everyone a curve ball today with the announcement of Project Tango, their new in-house smartphone prototype outfitted with Kinect-like sensors.
The 5-inch smartphone as is being developed by Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP) the same people behind Project Ara. Project Tango is lead by Johnny Lee — a man who helped make the Microsoft Kinect possible (makes sense, right?). The goal of Project Tango is to ultimately give mobile devices a “human-scale understanding” of space and motion, allowing users to map the world around them in ways they never thought possible.
The prototype uses many of the sensors already found in our smartphones today (gyroscope, cameras, etc.) but with a few key differences: Project Tango is outfitted with a 4MP camera, motion tracking camera, and depth sensing sensor. These all work in conjunction with Tango’s unique motion and depth tracking “vision processor” manufactured from Movidus. Other specs — including the version of Android its running — weren’t provided.
When it comes to practical, real-world applications, Google mentions indoor navigation and of course, incredibly immersive virtual reality video games (think Oculus Rift). Project Tango could even assist the visually impaired if applied correctly. Really, the possibilities are endless.
Starting today, Google is allowing developers to sign up for early access to the prototype dev kits. The first 200 handsets will only go out to carefully selected devs looking to make applications and/or algorithms atop this brand new platform, so if you’re interested, you better have a good pitch ready. As far as availability, we don’t expect these to be hitting Best Buy anytime soon, but Google does have plans to ship all prototype units by March 14th, 2014, barely a few short weeks away.
With Project Ara still fresh in everyone’s mind, we can’t believe Google is already undertaking another hardware project like Tango. We expect to learn much more during this year’s Google I/O kicking off in June but in the meantime, all we can say is… WOW.