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Mobile phone doubles as depth-sensing device

Posted: 25 Feb 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Google  Project Tango  depth sensor 

Google's Project Tango, a one-year R&D initiative, yielded a prototype of a depth-sensing, motion-tracking Android5 mobile phone that could provide support for location mapping and tracking. The 3D tracking phone could also serve as a platform for new types of games and robotic applications.

A number of 200 initial build prototypes will be distributed to software developers to enable application development on the phones, said Google on its website, adding that they are pursuing partnership with companies who will advance this technology and build great user experiences on top of the platform.

The Project Tango partnership includes the following image sensor vendors: OmniVision Technologies Inc., inertial MEMS sensor provider Bosch, Myriad1 vision processor Movidius Ltd., and 3D image converter software provider Paracosm. Whereas Google has yet to disclose the vendor who has provided its depth sensor.

"Our goal is to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion," said Johnny Chung Lee, project leader for Project Tango at Advanced Technology & Projects at Google.

The current prototype is a 5-inch mobile phone with custom hardware and software designed to track the 3D motion of the device while creating a 3D map of the environment using its image and depth sensors to make more than a quarter million 3D measurements per second. The Android phone includes development APIs to provide position, orientation, and depth data to standard Android applications written in Java, C/C++, as well as the Unity Game Engine. However, these early prototypes, algorithms, and APIs are still in active development.

Remi El-Ouazzane CEO of Movidius, commented: "Project Tango is truly a groundbreaking platform, and we look forward to seeing the innovation the developer community achieves with unprecedented access to the Movidius Vision Processor."

Google did not provide any information on how much power is consumed by the tracking and 3D-mapping function. It is likely that this is considerable and that not only will application-specific processors such as Myriad-1, be required to minimise the energy consumption, but that improvements may be required before it could be deployed in a commercial phone.

Google did not indicate how soon a depth-sensing phone might be released.

- Peter Clarke
  EE Times Europe





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