Lately it seems as though we've been engulfed in a wave of 3D technology, with 3D printers, 3D movies, 3D gaming consoles, 3D TV sets, etc. Perhaps it's no surprise that we should try to capture our environment in 3D. So the latest iteration of this trend will be 3D mobile devices, not only to display 3D mobile movies and games, but also to record our videos and take our pictures in full 3D.
Google made news in the past few weeks with Project Tango, whose goal is to create mobile devices that can sense space and movement in a similar way to humans. The first prototype, released in February, is an Android smartphone with a five-inch screen that uses special software to track the movements of the device in full 3D motion, measuring over 250,000 3D movements per second, and creating a virtual space model of the user's environment.
Google's Project Tango.
As part of Project Tango, Google is now building a first-generation 3D tablet, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, which quoted unnamed internal Google sources. On top of the usual sensors present on current products, the article said that the tablet will have advanced vision capabilities in the form of sophisticated 3D cameras, infrared depth sensors, and dedicated software.
Indeed, Google might already be producing 4,000 units of the seven-inch tablet to present at the company's annual developer's conference next month, according to the article. One possible feature of the tablet could be the ability to create accurate virtual worlds, such as mockup sets, from real-world environments. This would help game developers and movie producers cut down digitizing time.
This new tablet might be equipped with the Movidius Vision Processor, Myriad 1, which is designed to map space and motion in real time with detailed precision and accuracy. The processor is specifically designed for the task, and Movidius has developed a set of tools to help developers implement 3D solutions quickly and easily.
"Google has paved the future direction for smart mobile vision systems and we're excited to be working with a company that shares our vision to usher in the next wave of applications that fundamentally alter how a mobile device is used to experience the world around us," said Remi El-Ouazzane CEO of Movidius. "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."
Technologies developed under Project Tango could be used to create more immersive 3D games; step-by-step directions in buildings, malls and other facilities; and indoor navigation for the visually-impaired. Project Tango devices will probably fall in the same category as Google Glass, a technology ahead of consumer applications which has raised reservations about its possible uses.
At the same time Facebook, which acquired Oculus VR recently, is setting its sights on the 3D world. Between the two giants, consumer applications might be closer that we imagine.
— Pablo Valerio is a freelance blogger who writes about mobile and telecom issues for EE Times. He lives and works in Barcelona.