Google’s 3D Mapping Phones Head to Developers

March 19, 2014  - By

Google’s 3D mapping project, Project Tango, is putting prototypes into developers’ hands.

Google has been collaborating with universities, research labs, and industrial partners in nine countries, to concentrate the past 10 years of research in robotics and computer vision into a mobile phone. “We now have prototypes ready to put into the hands of eager development partners that can help us imagine the possibilities and to transform those ideas into reality,” Google said on its Project Tango website.

Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP) heads the project, which aims to make it possible to create a 3D model of the space around a smartphone. For instance, a user can map an area, such as a home, by walking around with the phone.

Creation of 3D maps in this way would make it easy to navigate through buildings such as offices and supermarkets. Maps of a user’s home could also be used in games. As Google said on its website, “Imagine playing hide-and-seek in your house with your favorite game character, or transforming the hallways into a tree-lined path. Imagine competing against a friend for control over territories in your home with your own miniature army, or hiding secret virtual treasures in physical places around the world.”

The current prototype is a 5-inch Android phone containing highly customized hardware and software designed to track the full 3D motion of the device as a user holds it, while simultaneously creating a map of the environment. These sensors allow the phone to make more than a quarter million 3D measurements every second, updating its position and orientation in real time, combining that data into a single 3D model of the space. The mapped space is matched to the phone’s internal gyroscopic systems and more general location data from GPS.

Check out the Project Tango video: