Google's Project Tango phone dances with Lenovo for its first consumer outing

3D scanning tech in one palm, not two

Google's first Project Tango phone for consumers is going to be made by Lenovo, and we finally a few official details about when it'll launch and how much it'll cost.

A joint CES 2016 announcement between the two tech companies teased a still-sight-unseen smaller device that uses the same 3D scanning camera technology as the 7-inch Project Tango tablet.

Its 3D camera can take measurements of distant objects and drops in virtual potential furniture to size up potential purchases, all through augmented reality. But all new demos were on the old tablet, sadly.

Of course, AR also means new CES game demos, too, so there was Jenga minus the need for physical blocks and a shooting gallery game, complete with a very physically present Nerf blaster attachment.

Smaller form factor promised

The Project Tango tablet is too big, Google said, so this new handset will be "under 6.5 inches." That could still be an enormous for a phone, but it sounds as of the company wants to make it pocketable.

Project Tango phone Lenovo news

Lenovo's Project Tango phone gets announced at CES, but is also a physical no-show (Credit: Lenovo)

There's certainly reason to believe Project Tango capabilities could be incorporated into the next Nexus phone, expected later this year, but that's a ways off.

Today's news of the phone follows the announcement of Google and Intel's Project Tango phone going up for pre-order during this year's CES. Not to mention the previously announced joint venture between Qualcomm and the search giant on a similar handset early last year.

Apps are key, Google says

While the 3D scanning tech is the marquee feature of the Tango line, applications are even more important. During their CES keynote, the companies demonstrated an augmented reality (AR) Jenga game as well as tools to measure a space and rearrange objects in the room.

Say, for instance, you want to measure the couch and then expand its size in the room artificially through AR before going out and buying one. These are the kinds of experiences that Google wants to make possible, but it can't do that without developers.

Perhaps, then, that's a primary driver for shrinking the hardware for Project Tango down to the only form factor more ubiquitous than tablets: smartphones. Makes sense.

Lenovo and Google were mum on much further details regarding the phone itself, divulging that they're working on five different designs, but have yet to settle on one.

The duo then went on to tease that this first consumer Project Tango phone will launch globally for under $500 (about £341, AU$708) later this summer.

Michelle Fitzsimmons and Joe Osborne contributed to this report