Google invites developers to take up Project Tango for 3D apps

The project focuses on using 3D-capable mobile devices for tasks like tracking full 3D motion and mapping environments

Google's Project Tango, focused on 3D-capable mobile devices, now has a tablet-based software development kit available. But the project still has a long way to go and lacks actual use cases, an analyst cautioned.

The recently released Project Tango Tablet Development Kit enables developers to build applications that track full 3D motion and capture surfaces in the environment. Developers will get updates as software algorithms and APIs evolve.

Under development by Google's ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) group, Tango is intended for use on devices that can understand space and motion. But an analyst questioned what, exactly, the applications will be. "My take is that Project Tango is an interesting research project but we shouldn't consider it anything like a product yet," said Carl Howe, analyst at Yankee Group. "I like to think of it like a Google StreetView car packed inside a phone or a tablet; it does an amazing job of mapping its environment in 3D. But the unanswered question at present is, for what use?" Google is opening up Tango to developers, so they can figure out for themselves what to do with it, he contended.

The ATAP Web page cites use cases like the ability to capture dimensions of a home simply by walking around with a phone before shopping for furniture. Or perhaps visually impaired persons could navigate unassisted in unfamiliar indoor places.

Project Tango runs Google's Android OS and includes APIs providing positioning, orientation, and depth data to standard Android applications. Howe said Tango devices should be referred to as data-gathering platforms to map the real world into the Internet virtual world: "Positioning them that way from the start would help Google avoid some very uncomfortable privacy questions about what gets mapped and what doesn't."

The development kit, priced at $1,024, runs an Nvidia Tegra K1 processor with 4GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, a motion-tracking camera and depth-sensing capabilities. The kit was created in collaboration with Nvidia. Developers can sign up for information on the development kit at the Project Tango website.

This story, "Google invites developers to take up Project Tango for 3D apps," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.