Jan 8, 2016 | By Kira

In a joint announcement at CES 2016, tech giant Google and PC manufacturer Lenovo unveiled plans for an upcoming consumer smartphone with advanced 3D scanning and 3D image capture capabilities. The product, which was described but not yet physically revealed, is the next development in Google’s Project Tango, and and will be made by Lenovo.

Though Google announced plans to incorporate Project Tango into a more convenient smartphone device around this same time last year, these are the first more concrete details to emerge, and the first mention of Google partnering-up with Lenovo, who recently entered the 3D printing market, and also just released a new 3D scanning device: it’s modular ThinkPad X1 tablet, which comes with an Intel RealSense-powered 3D Scanner.

What we know so far is that the Project Tango smartphone will be under 6.5 inches (the previous testing version of the device was a 7 inch tablet that was deemed 'too big' for consumers to comfortably use), that it will be running a Qualcomm chipset, and that—while no official price has been released—Google has hinted that it will be sold globally for under $500.

Google-Lenovo joint announcement at CES 2016

As far as it’s 3D scanning capabilities, the Projet Tango camera will be able to capture 3D images from the real world, and convert them into virtual 3D models for 3D printing or other purposes. It can also measure a room in 3D and then overlay augmented reality objects onto the screen. For example, you could 3D scan and measure your bedroom, and then ‘drop in’ virtual furniture to see how it looks and fits before you purchase. It will also be capable of tracking indoor places and recognizing where they phone has been before.

During a product demo at CES 2016, Google execs also demonstrated how to play a virtual game of Jenga or get virtual pets to interact with real objects using the 3D camera. These are just a few initial ideas for how the Project Tango smartphone’s 3D camera and 3D scanning capabilities could be used in our everyday lives, for both practical and entertainment purposes. Google has launched an incubator to encourage developers to submit even more 3D scanning game and app ideas, which will potentially come pre-installed in the device when it goes on sale.

"We are physical beings that live in a 3D world,” said Google when they announced Project Tango nearly two years ago. "The goal of Project Tango is to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion."

So far, both Lenovo and Google have been able to keep the rest of the details regarding their Project Tango consumer smartphone under wraps, however they did say there are currently five different designs in the works. Though the currently proposed 6.5 inch size still seems a little big for a smartphone, it’s more manageable than the 7-inch tablet, and who knows how much it’s design or size might change between now and the product’s official launch, set for an undetermined date later this year.

And for those who aren’t convinced that 3D scanning-enabled smartphones are the way of the future, think again. Built-in 3D scanning technology will soon likely be as ubiquitous as regular smartphone cameras, which 15 or so years ago might also have seen like a frivolous add-on.

In fact, Intel has also recently announced it’s own RealSense Smartphone Developer Kit, a 6-inch smartphone that also supports Google’s Project Tango 3D scanning camera technology, and is already available for pre-order for just $399. Although Intel has yet to confirm when exactly the dev kit will begin shipping, it’s further evidence that, like 2D cameras before them, 3D cameras could soon be a standard feature in the next generation of smartphones.



Posted in 3D Scanning



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