25 Feb 2014

This is Google's Project Tango

Google's surprise reveal of Project Tango, a smartphone equipped with a variety of cameras and vision sensors that provides a whole new perspective on the world around it, left us with quite a few questions about how this device actually works and what it's for. Google says the Tango smartphone can capture a wealth of data never before available to app developers, including depth- and object-tracking and real-time 3D mapping. And it's no bigger or more dependent on power than your typical smartphone. We sat down with Remi El-Ouazzane, CEO of Movidius, the company that developed the technology in Tango, to get a better idea of what this device can do and what it means for applications of the future.

Movidius has been working on the technology behind Project Tango for the past seven years — it's developed the cameras, sensors, and processing chips required to give a smartphone the same level of computer vision and tracking that formerly required much larger equipment. In fact, El-Ouzzane says the technology isn't very different at all from what NASA's Exploration Rover used to map the surface of Mars a decade ago, but instead of being in a 400-pound vehicle, it fits in the palm of your hand.

The phone is equipped with a standard 4-megapixel camera paired with a special combination RGB and IR sensor and a lower-resolution image-tracking camera. Those image sensors give the smartphone a similar perspective on the world as you and I, complete with spatial awareness and a perception of depth. They feed data to Movidius' custom Myriad 1 low-power computer-vision processor, which can then crunch the data and feed it to apps through a set of APIs.

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