Google is calling on the world’s software developers to help it build software for the experimental 3D-modeling tablet it calls Project Tango.
The tablet can tap the power of motion sensors and machine vision to create realistic models of the environment around it, and with the introduction of a new Tango development kit on Thursday, Google hopes that coders will create new kinds of mapping and immersive-gaming applications that tap the device’s unique hardware.
Previously, the company shared the Tango prototype with a few handpicked developers, but this is the first time it had opened up the platform to all engineers. Priced at $1,024, the kit will include a 7-inch tablet outfitted with all the necessary sensors and software to take advantage of this new creation, and according to Google, it will be available later this year. Nvidia—-the company that makes the processors for the Tango tablet–says they could arrive as early as July.
Google wants developers to build new kinds of mapping and immersive-gaming applications.
Once it’s finished, outfitted with the proper software, and placed in the hands of the people across the globe, it could be a fun thing for them to play with. But it could also serve as Googles eyes and ears on the ground, opening up a whole new range of other applications–and possibly a few privacy concerns.
Google and NVIDIA say that Tango could help build map directions that don’t stop at your destination’s street address, indoor navigation systems for buildings, and tools for real estate professionals or interior decorators to quickly gather data about a room. NASA is already experimenting with Project Tango sensors for its SPHERES, which are bowling ball sized spherical satellites designed to test specific maneuvers onboard space stations, such as docking.
Google first unveiled the project back in February. Johnny Lee, who previously worked on Microsoft’s Kinect, is the technical lead for the project at Google’s blue sky research group called Advanced Technology and Projects, or ATAP. ATAP, which is led by former DARPA director Regina Dugan, is the same division that is developing Project Ara, the weird modular phone system.
As phones become increasingly commodified, companies like Google, Samsung, and Apple need to find new ways too keep their devices cool and relevant. Google Now, for instance, is getting smarter. It gathers a wide range of data about you from your calendar, email, and location data to push potentially helpful information to you, such as reminders of when it’s time to leave for an appointment based on the current traffic and road conditions. It’s not hard to imagine something like Project Tango feeding into that system, helping Google to craft new types of 3D-aware programs. Of course, it could also feed a brand new kind of Google advertising.