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Project Tango resurfaces in Lenovo and Intel phone designs

Jan 11, 2016 — by Eric Brown 1,768 views

Lenovo announced an Android phone using Google’s Project Tango technology, and Intel released a Project Tango development phone with its RealSense camera.

When Lenovo acquired Motorola from Google in 2014, Motorola’s “Advanced Research and Projects” (ATAP) group and Project Tango computer vision project stayed with Google. Now, however, Lenovo is moving forward with a Project Tango based smartphone that will go on sale this summer for under $500. The device will run Android on an unspecified Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC.

Two slides from LG’s Project Tango phone announcement at CES 2016
(click to images enlarge; source: ArsTechnica)

The unnamed Lenovo phone will use advanced computer vision, depth sensing, and motion tracking to overlay digital information and objects onto images of the real world. Meanwhile, Intel has its own Project Tango development phone in the making that will integrate its RealSense 3D camera (see farther below).

Early Motorola
Project Tango

(click to enlarge)

The initial smartphone prototype from Motorola’s ATAP was a 5-inch Android phone with a pair of Myriad 1 vision co-processors from Movidius, and a variety of sensors, including a compass, gyros. It also had Kinect-like 3D visual sensors for integrated depth sensing and motion tracking. The technology has progressed since then, and is now found in a Google development tablet available on Google Play, as well as Snapdragon based reference platforms available from Google and Qualcomm.


Some of the capabilities available with the Lenovo Project Tango phone are said to include:

  • Capture 3D dimensions of a room, giving measurements you can use when shopping for furniture or decorations
  • React to every movement of the user when they step forward, backward, or lean side to side
  • Transform a home into a game level, or create a magic window into virtual and augmented environments
  • Recognize places the phone has been before, like a living room, office, or public space
  • Track motion indoors, allowing users to navigate precisely through a shopping mall, or even find a specific item at the store where that information is available

According to Computerworld, the phone will be quite slim with a screen smaller than 6.5 inches. The phone will also feature three cameras in addition to the typical front- and rear-facing cams, says the story. These are said to include a depth sensing camera, a fisheye wide angle camera, and an RGB camera for precise color identification.

Forbes quotes Lenovo VP Jeff Meredith as saying the new phone is not just another development platform, but a consumer and enterprise phone. He also suggested that depth sensing for measuring rooms and the like will be the initial focus in the early going.

Google and Lenovo are launching an incubator for companies looking to write apps for the phone. Developers can now submit app proposals through Feb. 15 for a chance to win funding and a chance to have their app pre-loaded on the phone.

At the CES announcement, Johnny Lee, Google’s head of development at Project Tango, demonstrated Project Tango using the Google tablet, says ComputerWorld. Lee precisely measured the stage, fit virtual furniture into the virtual stage created by Project Tango, and played a virtual game of Jenga.

Intel’s RealSense and Project Tango enabled smartphone dev kit

Also at CES, Intel opened pre-sales on a Project Tango development phone it announced back in August. The Intel RealSense Smartphone Developer Kit adds Intel’s RealSense camera, which has been popping up in everything from Yuneec’s Typhoon H drone to the latest Daqri Smart Helmet, a high-tech hard hat that provides augmented reality displays for industrial workers.

The $399 Android phone is available for sale, but no ship date was mentioned. The 6-inch, 2560 x 1440-pixel device runs on an Atom x7-Z8700 SoC, and offers 8- and 2-megapixel rear and front facing cameras in addition to the 3D camera.

The phone ships with 2GB RAM, 64GB storage, plus WiFi, 3G, GPS, and Bluetooth 4.0. There’s also an HDMI port and a USB 3.0 port. SDKs are provided for both RealSense and Project Tango.

Further information

Lenovo’s Project Tango phone will go on sale for less than $500 this summer. More information may be found at Lenovo’s Project Tango announcement. The Project Tango incubator with app proposal submissions may be found here. Google’s Project Tango Tablet Development Kit is available for purchase at Google Play starting at $512, here. More information and sales for the Intel RealSense Smartphone Developer Kit may be found here.

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