Google Unveils Project Tango, Fast 3D Mapping Built into Phone

Technology giant Google has announced Project Tango, a new initiative that allows for instant 3D mapping of environments on a new smartphone. The company unveiled the technology through a demonstration video (below). While still very much in the early stages, it could have a big impact on virtual reality (VR) in time.

As the video shows, Project Tango uses the prototype smartphone’s camera to record an environment and rebuild it as a 3D virtual space. The current prototype includes a 4-megapixel camera on top, a motion tracking camera at the bottom, 2 computer vision processors and integrated depth sensing. As a result, the phone’s motion can be tracked in full 3D, making over 250,000 3D measurements every second.

While Google didn’t talk much about what the technology could do for videogames, a small section did show some applications such as throwing 3D objects around in a room and interacting with digital props and characters. The motion tracking camera looks similar to the head tracking technology used in the Oculus Rift VR headset.

While there wasn’t mention of the technology’s use beyond phones, Google did express a desire to release it to the open source community. Should VR developers get their hands on it, they could potentially start mapping real-world environments for use in VR videogames in a drastically shorter space of time.

Right now Google insists that Project Tango has a long way to go. It did say that developer kits would be distributed “over the next few months”. VRFocus will continue to track the initiative’s progress and report on any VR integration that might be announced.