Google outs Project Tango, a 3D-mapping phone that takes cues from Kinect

Project Tango
Want to dance with Project Tango?

Imagine using your phone to create a 3D map of the world around you, one you could use to figure out how new furniture will fit in a room or maneuver through an unfamiliar building or find an item on some lone supermarket shelf.

Thanks to a new Google endeavor, you may one day be able to do all these things and more.

Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group has announced Project Tango, a 5-inch Android smartphone prototype packing customized hardware and software to track the device's entire 3D motion. Using the data, the phone crafts a 3D map of the surrounding environment.

The phone's sensors can snag over a quarter million 3D measurements a second, and as it updates its position and orientation in real-time, it coalesces the information into a single 3D model.

Maps on your phone go to the next level

Maps on your phone go to the next level

Project Tango has definite Kinect undertones, and for good reason.

ATAP lead Johnny Lee used to work for Microsoft's Kinect crew. Of this Project Tango, Lee said its goal is "to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion."

The phone houses development APIs that send position, orientation and depth data to standard Android apps. Though the days are still early, Google envisions Project Tango having applications in gaming, helping the visually-impaired, maps/navigation and other everyday scenarios.

Not for you. Yet

As if you couldn't tell, Project Tango is firmly planted in the "early stages" sands. For now, Google is focused on "exploration of what might be possible in a mobile platform."

That said, Project Tango does have a few known specs, including a 4MP camera, 2X computer vision processors, integrated depth sensing and a motion tracking camera.

Only 200 prototype dev kits exist, and Google hopes to get them out the door by March 14. The company is searching for professional developers to take a crack at "creating more than a touchscreen app."

Some of the dev sets have been set aside for indoor navigation/mapping, single and multiplayer games that use physical space and new algorithms for processing sensor data. There are also a number set aside for "we haven't thought of [it] yet" purposes.

Check out ATAP's video explaining Project Tango and its possibilities below. Looks pretty nifty, if you ask us.

Michelle Fitzsimmons

Michelle was previously a news editor at TechRadar, leading consumer tech news and reviews. Michelle is now a Content Strategist at Facebook.  A versatile, highly effective content writer and skilled editor with a keen eye for detail, Michelle is a collaborative problem solver and covered everything from smartwatches and microprocessors to VR and self-driving cars.