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Google Inc. Wants to Map Your Surroundings, but in a Good Way


Google announces Project Tango, which outfits a smartphone with 3D sensors to map your surroundings into a virtual environment.

With the rise of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Kinect, tech giants have been paying more attention to technologies that can detect objects and gestures within a 3D environment. Samsung (OTCMKTS:SSNLF), for example, outfitted its Samsung Galaxy S4 with sensors that can track eye movement, thereby controlling scrolling through Web pages or pausing videos when looking away from the screen. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), too, is looking into 3D motion-sensing technology with last year's $345 million acquisition of PrimeSense, a company that helped develop the original Microsoft Kinect.

And now, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is forging headlong into 3D virtual environments with its newly announced Project Tango.

Courtesy of Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) hardware group, Project Tango aims to equip a five-inch smartphone with advanced sensors that can not only detect motion but also the three-dimensional makeup of one's surroundings. But unlike the presumed direction in which Apple is taking its acquired PrimeSense technologies, Google's plan isn't to create a gesture-based interface but rather to further 3D-sensing and vision technology and all the limitless possibilities that lie therein.

Google's product page blue-skies, "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?"

But the company realizes Project Tango's true potential can only be realized in the hands of developers, and it has allowed designers to apply for access to the 3D-sensing phones. Limiting the initial run to 200 vetted developers, Google hopes the hands-on development will lead to apps for "indoor navigation/mapping, single/multiplayer games that use physical space, and new algorithms for processing sensor data."

However, given the ingenuity of a developer with a brand-new, largely untested toy, we could potentially see some revolutionary, game-changing applications and services borne from Project Tango.

Check out just a taste of what we might start to see in the coming years:

See also:

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