When Google sold Motorola, it quietly retained the most interesting part: The Advanced Technology and Projects Group, otherwise known as ATAP. And now, we’re getting whiff of what Google’s futuristic R&D arm has been up to, with the public revealing of Project Tango.
Project Tango is an experimental new smartphone with built-in 3-D sensors that, according to Google, allow wielders to digitally map the world around them. Its spatially aware motion-sensing powers work using a “revolutionary” new Myriad 1 vision processor, which harvests a fraction of the computing power needed for something like, say, Microsoft’s Kinect. It’s like cramming a 3-D scanner into a Pop-Tart.
And now, Google is opening the program to a set of 200 developers to help build apps for it. “We are physical beings that live in a 3-D world,” writes ATAP’s Johnny Lee, who leads the Project Tango team. “Yet, our mobile devices assume that the physical world ends at the boundaries of the screen.”
The possibilities presented by Tango are pretty cool. A game designer could ostensibly design a first-person shooter that takes place in a digital representation of your living room, or the street you live on. Or, if you’re into home decor, you might be able to rearrange your furniture like Tetris blocks on a screen before throwing out your back trying to move a baby grand piano. It could also help aid the visually impaired get around. Mind you, Tango presents some scarier possibilities, too, the least of which would essentially be an omniscient Google panopticon.