The difference between Google and most of the rest of us is that when we all look at Google Earth, we say, ‘oh good, someone’s systematically photographed all the streets in the developed world’; whereas Google says, ‘hmm, if we could just get inside people’s houses, we’d really have something’.
According to Google’s latest declaration of technological intent, it may have puzzled that one out, with the development of an Android phone that uses a motion-tracking camera and a depth sensor to map the world around it, taking over a quarter of a million measurements per second.
The aim of what Google has christened Project Tango isn’t, presumably, to show the world your living room, but to conquer the problem of indoor navigation and develop the next generation of mapping tools and geo-location services, and to wrench the mobile phone out of its current two-dimensional limitations.
The prototype phone, which will go out to developers in the coming months, comes from the Advanced Technology and Projects Group Google inherited from Motorola.
“We are physical beings that live in a 3D world, yet mobile devices today assume that the physical world ends at the boundaries of the screen,” says ATAP project lead Johnny Lee. “Our goal is to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion.”
Much of the excitement among the many third-party developers that have been recruited by Google to the Project Tango cause seems to come from the potential for immersive, real-world-based gaming, though you can bet that won’t be Google’s sole aim.
“Imagine that you scan a small section of your living room and then are able to generate a little game world in it. I don’t know of another controller or gaming device that can do that at the moment,” says Chase Cobb of 3D software company Paracosm.
You can see these people and a number of others talking about it in the video above.