Google today announced something which looks like something of a niche product at first glance. It's called Project Tango, and it basically equips a prototype Android smartphone with a rangefinder, accelerometers, gyros, and a camera array which is like some bizarre cross between Google Maps, Google Streetview, and Xbox Kinect. Using it is pretty simple: just walk around any physical location, and it'll put together a map.
On the Project Tango Website, Google offered a whole host of possible uses for the new prototype, ranging from consumer-oriented to strictly professional.
The early applications of such technology are basic enough: you could, for example, put together a three-dimensional floor-plan of your home, or maybe map out intricate directions to a particular location. Such technology could also be a great boon to emergency response personnel, helping them find their way through wreckage and smoke in order to rescue survivors. Shoppers, too, might enjoy what Tango's got to offer, as it could provide them with a three-dimensional, indoor map of whatever store that happens to catch their eye. People could explore entire cities from the comfort of their desks.
Believe it or not, it actually gets even cooler than that. See, if Tango catches on as a consumer product, we could have legions of the devices mapping out every inch of the world. Eventually, such technology could easily be put to use for augmented reality gaming. Of course...it could just as easily be used for somewhat more insidious means, as well - I wouldnt' be at all surprised to see us run straight into a whole net or privacy concerns as a result of the new mapping software in Tango, which could potentially give Google and its partners an unprecedented look into our daily lives.
But we're getting a bit off track here.
Tango will work marvelously well with two trends in particular: the first of these is the Internet of Things. Imagine, if you would, future models of tango that not only map rooms and locations, but also point out identifiable, manageable objects. In this way, you could use Tango to map out your kitchen, and potentially manage your appliances straight from your phone. Now, instead of just having a network of interconnected devices, you're able to map out how and where they're connected in the physical world. As an added bonus, imagine what Tango would do for everyone if it could itself identify objects with which it could interface?
Equally exciting is what Tango could mean for robotics technology - of which Google's got plenty. Equipped with the tech from its shiny new robotics firms, Google could very well leverage the software and hardware of tango to produce a line of autonomous mapping robots or advanced telepresence robots. Through these robots, the world as we know it could very well end up being monitored, scanned, and mapped 24/7.
Now, add virtual reality to the equation, and what do you get?
Each of us could immerse ourselves in our own digital world. We could explore the Great Pyramids, or go to a pub in Dublin, or wander through the streets of Rome - all without ever leaving the comfort of our own homes. Sure, it might not be the same as actually being at all those places...but it'll be closer than many of us might ever get in our lives.
Today, Google announced a new prototype Smartphone known as Tango. Thing is, it's a lot more than a gadget, and the underlying technology represents a huge leap forward in both robotics and augmented reality. Count on it - I'm certain Google is.