Smartphones keep creating new possibilities for innovating and starting up. Internet and GPS capabilities, for example, launched new waves of Web and location-based apps and startups. But GPS is old hat by now, and device innovation appears to have tapered off. We hear more about changes in the dimension and colour of mobile phones, than new technology that can spin off a new category of startups, like GPS did.
It is in this context that a new prototype of a futuristic smartphone being offered by Google to mobile app developers becomes exciting for startups. Project Tango, as Google calls the initiative, goes beyond location mapping to creating a 3D model of the surroundings in real time. Depth sensors, motion tracking cameras and computer vision processors packed into the smartphone will construct a picture of the world as humans see it.
Google is putting the technology out for developers to play with, so that they can come up with applications. An app developer or a startup can fill out a form to apply for one of the prototype development kits which will start shipping by March 14. “Tell us what you would build. Be creative. Be specific. Be bold… We’re looking for professional developers with dreams of creating more than a touch-screen app. These devices were built with the unique ability to sense 3D motion and geometry. We want partners who will push the technology forward and build great user experiences on top of this platform,” says Google.
The phone can process a quarter million 3D measurements in a second to create a 3D view of the space around the phone. From simple uses like mapping the interiors of a home for designers, to more esoteric ones like helping robots to navigate their way through a mall – these are only the most obvious applications. As Google says, the prototype kits are being sent out along with an API (Application Programming Interface) for “applications we haven’t thought of yet”.
Augmented reality could be a major area of application, as well as multiplayer games that use physical space. In Google’s words: “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 phone could even replace a blind man’s cane – with voice alerts on objects in the way. Can you think of interesting uses for such a phone? Let us know in the comments section below. Or better still, if you are a pro, just write to Google for the prototype.