google project tango
May 25, 2014

Google Developing Prototype Tablet Capable Of 3D Imaging

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Google is reportedly working on a revolutionary new tablet capable of taking 3D images as part of its Android-based mobile research and development initiative, the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to WSJ reporters Lorraine Luk and Rolfe Winkler, the company is currently planning to start production of approximately 4,000 of the prototype tablets starting in July. The device will have a seven-inch display and would come equipped with a pair of back cameras, infrared depth sensors and advanced software capable of capturing detailed three-dimensional images of various objects, sources familiar with Google’s plans told the paper.

The tablet is being developed as part of Project Tango, the Mountain View, California firm’s attempt to create unique Android-based mobile devices. The program, which was unveiled by Google back in February, runs out of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) hardware group.

Project Tango previously released a prototype five-inch smartphone that, like the proposed tablet, contains sensors and is designed to create a 3D map of a user’s environment, Luk and Winkler said. The company claims the smartphone could provide a better way for visually impaired men and women to travel, helping them navigate using step-by-step directions, and could also result in the creature of more immersive gaming software.

“The goal of Project Tango is to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion,” ATAP technical program lead Johnny Lee said back in February. “As we walk through our daily lives, we use visual cues to navigate and understand the world around us… We are physical beings that live in a 3D world. Yet, our mobile devices assume that physical world ends at the boundaries of the screen.”

According to BBC News, the new tablet will be demonstrated at Google’s June developer’s conference, following in the footsteps of the Project Tango smartphone. Prototype handsets were made available to 200 developers, the British news agency added, and the tablet will likely also be handed out to a select number of designers and engineers before Google plans any potential commercial launch.

“The plan is to make the Tango tablet a limited developer project at first, just like the Tango smartphone, with consumer plans still up in-the-air. Google could conceivably field its own Tango-toting devices down the road, but the better bet is probably that it would eventually seed the hardware and the resulting SDK and software to OEM partners for them to include in their own Android devices to sell on to consumers,” added TechCrunch’s Darrell Etherington.

Google is not the only tech giant testing the advanced computer vision technology waters, though, noted CNET's Steven Musil. Facebook is planning to acquire Oculus VR, the maker of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, for $2 billion. While Oculus Rift was designed solely for use in video games, Facebook has announced plans to extend the virtual reality technology into communications, education, entertainment and other uses, he added.