For better or worse, we’ve all come to rely on GPS tracking systems to help us find the nearest Starbucks coffee shop. Ask us to visualize a four block radius without the aid of technology and our minds go blank. In reality, the use of GPS has made traveling from place to place a far less intimidating experience for many not endowed with an awareness of space and location. With Google’s ‘Project Tango‘, GPS tracking systems, which until now have only been able to provide spatially challenged individuals an external mapping of environments, will now provide us with the tools to capture and access surroundings (including those indoors) in 3D courtesy of sophisticated 3D interior mapping technology.
3D interior mapping what?
The heading is not meant to insult anyone’s intelligence other than to point out the revolutionary nature of Project Tango’s ability to map environments in 3D. Although similar technologies have been around, Project Tango is the first of its kind to do so via tablet or smartphone, providing users the opportunity to map the insides of structures the world over.
In fact, try to imagine a Google Earth app equivalent that affords us the chance to access a variety of entertainment venues, be they museums, amusement parks or historical buildings. From the comfort of our homes, and for those lacking the financial means to travel extensively, people will be able to familiarize themselves with the distinguishing features of indoor and outdoor venues in full 3D glory.
The technology behind Project Tango
According to Google, Project Tango “give[s]mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion.” Equipped with sensors and infrared cameras, Project Tango tablets and smartphones scan immediate surroundings in real-time to produce a 3D model of their environment. Each second, Project Tango devices take approximately 250,000 measurements to create 3D models of the spaces around us. Thanks to the collaborate efforts of several universities, research labs and industrial partners, Project Tango will be available to consumers later this year in the form of a 5-inch smartphone and a 7-inch tablet.
With about 500 developer kits in circulation, a variety of occupations, industries and companies are already looking at ways to utilize the technological capabilities of Project Tango. For example, interested search-and-rescue parties are testing how drones fitted with Project Tango’s 3D mapping technology can be used to assess and survey disaster environments like a collapsed building before sending in rescuers. Other potential uses include equipping self-driving cars for better navigation and offering consumers ways to map the insides of their homes when considering the purchase of fixtures and furniture. Individuals with disabilities can also look forward to enhancing the quality of their lives. With the aid of Project Tango, the visually impaired can frequent environments that otherwise pose too much danger or risk when traveling alone.
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This is extremely exciting technology that will no doubt introduce several disruptive technologies in the near future.