Google is known for unconventional – albeit fantastic – projects (like the modular phone) and Tango is possibly the most creative yet. Using a 120 degree camera and, independently of GPS, Project Tango maps out three dimensional surroundings. Think of Google Maps, except much, much more comprehensive. This would add the ability of being able to click on a building and take a digital tour (provided the business is willing to share the collected data).


While this won’t be ready for launch anytime soon, Google released development kits earlier this year. The kit has an NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor, sports 4 GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. The downside? Limited quantity and a hefty price tag of $1,024. The price tag reflects the idea that these aren’t conventional, retail oriented tablets – they use custom designed hardware on an open source platform, and are meant for a specific purpose in mind.


Tango relies on three camera sensors (also called the sensor array) to collect mappings, and uses these mappings to create a 3 dimensional construct developed via the gyro and accelerometer. The precision is presently reported as 99%, and is so effective and accurate that NASA has adopted its use for their own purposes.


Gaming – Reinvented


The predominant amount of this technology will likely be aimed at consumers – initially. Gamers are itching to develop apps and virtual reality applications using the end-users house, yard, and surrounding areas as the layout. Many games are already developed and in beta – but this is only the beginning.


Think of linking several house’s 3-D images together. You can “hide” an object from others you’re playing against. The possibilities of using this in MMORPG’s are, quite literally, endless. Having to move to a particular room to battle an elf, or as the program lead Johnny Lee described “playing a virtual reality game while having to squat with his tablet to chat with a very short wizard” are well within the realm of possibilities; they’re merely the starting point.


Project Tango


Games are fun and generate revenue – but what about the commercial applications? How will this really change the world of software?


The visually impaired are certainly potential beneficiaries, as mapping would allow them to effectively navigate throughout any store or area without relying on assistance – including a service animal. Using a tablet with audible instructions or one that may gently vibrate as the user goes off course would be a wonderful start.  Certain notification sounds or voice instruction could guide them directly to the store they need, the items they wish to purchase, or even recognize crosswalks. It can lead them to taxi stands or the city bus, and tell them when to get off or where an empty seat is.


One possibility for retailers is to create a virtual map of product offerings and post it to Facebook or Google Maps. An app would then allow customers to pick out items they want (or even just a general idea, for example, “cereal,” or “jeans) like a grocery list, and the app would lead them to each product in the most efficient manner possible. Moreover, an app could pair together the selection with available coupons or sales.


Security forces, both private and public, have a new edge. Being able to map a house, for instance, would allow a security company to know the best place to put cameras or sensors. To take it a step further, police would know exactly where to look for a perpetrator while responding to a call, or when serving a warrant police would already know the layout of the building. Firemen would be able to maintain a bearing on the structural integrity and be able to more accurately (and quickly) predict where a building is weakening.


Finally, consider you and your friends are debating between two places to visit that you’ve never been. Could be a night club, martini bar, Movie Theater, or even a water park. Being able to have a tour before going could certainly make the difference between one or another. This isn’t a “virtual tour” of a photo carousel, it’s a legitimate digital tour, more like Google Maps Street View – but with considerably more sophisticated and less linear directions.


Project Tango


While it’s safe to say Project Tango is a very creative design, the potential for applications and new software is infinite.  This is an entirely new concept that will surely spawn a large and uninhibited development of new apps, software, and hundreds of possibilities. MMORPGS, visually impaired assistance, security and retail shopping lists are only the beginning – and with phones developing increasingly more powerful hardware, it may not be long before this kind of technology is actually affordable.


Tango doesn’t have a release date, and Google has kept mum about producing one. There aren’t even rumors at this point, but we do know this – we can’t wait to hear more!