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Google to roll out 3D-sensing tablet by next year

Posted: 30 Jun 2014 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Google? 3D depth-sensing? tablet? Android? Nvidia?

According to speakers at Google's I/O developer conference this year, Project Tango will be in consumer hands as early as next year. The company is in early engagements with LG Electronics to produce the 3D depth-sensing tablet next year.

"Project Tango is a focused effort to work with the hardware and software ecosystem to advance the state of 3D sensing on mobile," technical program lead Johnny Lee stated. "The compute is genuinely here to do amazing things with our devices. What's missing is the hardware and software."

Project Tango is a product of Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group. Its fourth project is a tablet designed to introduce developers to 3D. The 7in Android tablet runs on an Nvidia Tegra K1 processor with 120GB SSD and 4GB of RAM, a 4MP/2um camera, a high-speed light-sensitive sensor and a custom motion tracking camera. Google demonstrated tablets with PMD and Mantis Vision depth sensors.

Tango tablet

A hardware breakdown of the Tango tablet.

"Just to demonstrate that we're not specific to any one sensor, but what LG chooses to put in their tablets is up to them," a Google engineer said. "We would love it if there were a lot of different form factors, different price points. We don't think there's just one way to do Project Tango at its core."

The Project Tango Development Kit will be made available this summer. Lee showcased a variety of programs the Tango team of ATAP members, universities and companies designed. A location sensing and mapping program required used no GPS, WiFi or Bluetooth to map a user's location.

3D sensing

An example of 3D sensing capabilities.

An intern took the tablet and walked up and down the stairs of a 41,000-square-foot building, mapping the staircase in colourful 3D with only motion sensors and light. After combining tracking and depth sensor information, the tablet can capture an environment with only one per cent drift. Lee also created a model walking around his home, and he mapped the stage at the I/O in real-time.

3D staircase map created without GPS

A 3D staircase map created without GPS.

"If you capture the data and store it for offline processing, you can do" much higher-quality images, Lee said as he changed the rough 3D image of his garage to a clearer picture.

3D mapping with offline computing

3D mapping with offline computing creates a clearer image.

Mobile games based on 3D motion sensing and programs that can turn a 3D mapped room into a "fantasy world" for gaming were also on display. Lee said other aspects of Project Tango include a free-flying robot that will be sent to navigate the International Space Station in August.

"This type of technology will become part of the tools we want to provide, but it's not there today. We're working actively with companies and universities to improve the software stack," he said. "There's a tremendous amount of work to do and I think the future is awesome."

- Jessica Lipsky
??EE Times

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