Google unveils the Project Tango smartphone

project-tango-phoneGoogle’s Advanced Technology and Projects group has unveiled a prototype smartphone that aims to make sense of its surroundings.

Dubbed “Project Tango”, the device is a 5” smartphone equipped with cameras on the front and back, an additional motion tracking camera at the rear, integrated depth sensing, a Movidius’ Myriad 1 vision processor, plus all the other usual components, such as gyros and sensors, that are found in most smartphones.

The smartphone isn’t intended for commercial release just yet though – instead, Google is looking for developers who can create apps that utilize the new sensors. Google announced that it intends to distribute all 200 of its Project Tango units by March 14, 2014 and if you want to be one of those lucky developers, you need to tell them what app/s you’ll be building. Google has allocated Project Tango dev kits specifically for indoor navigation/mapping, single/multiplayer games that use physical space, and new algorithms for processing sensor data, as well as apps that Google itself hasn’t thought of.

“What if you could capture the dimensions of your home simply by walking around with your phone before you went furniture shopping? What if directions to a new location didn’t stop at the street address? What if you never again found yourself lost in a new building? What if the visually-impaired could navigate unassisted in unfamiliar indoor places? What if you could search for a product and see where the exact shelf is located in a super-store?” wrote Google on the the Project Tango page.

“Imagine playing hide-and-seek in your house with your favorite game character, or transforming the hallways into a tree-lined path. Imagine competing against a friend for control over territories in your home with your own miniature army, or hiding secret virtual treasures in physical places around the world?”

The Advanced Technology and Projects group, or ATAP, is a Motorola unit which the company did not include when Google sold Motorola to Lenovo for $2.91 billion.

Project Tango isn’t the only thing ATAP is working on. Another project that’s been getting a lot of buzz is Project Ara, an initiative to develop a free, open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones.