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Google’s 3D-Sensing Tablets Coming to Consumers Next Year

June 27, 2014
Tablet computers
Tablet computers

Thanks to a manufacturing partnership with LG, soon you’ll be able to measure your home, map your physical surroundings, or play incredibly immersive games with nothing more than a tablet.

Google has been working for some time with universities, research labs, developers, and other tech companies to develop the capabilities to map and sense the world in three dimensions via a smartphone or tablet. Dubbed Project Tango, it was officially announced in February, and the idea is that it will give devices a sense of their place in the world akin to our own and therefore open up a wealth of possibilities for new smartphone and tablet uses and features.

For example, using Google Maps on a normal smartphone will get you to the front door of an office building. But what if you need to get to a room on a specific floor? With an understanding of the 3D environment, a Project Tango device could make sure you found the right door. Or it could just as easily remember on which level of the multistory garage the car is waiting.

But, just like Google Glass, its smart headset, Project Tango was thought to be at a very early stage of development. There are prototype devices available for developers who want to build apps for them, but they cost more than $1,000 each and, in terms of design, won’t be giving Apple’s Jony Ive any sleepless nights.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when Google announced that it was working with LG and planned to offer the technology in consumer tablets early in 2015.

And although it didn’t mention specifications or pricing, Google did also confirm that it is working with the Unity and the Unreal game engine and chip-maker Qualcomm as part of the consumer development.

As well as being able to give directions in three dimensions or automatically measure every aspect of every room in a house — something that could cause shockwaves in the interior design community — Project Tango opens up a host of possibilities in gaming and contextual awareness, not to mention in helping people with disabilities such as impaired vision gain greater independence.