Your phone may soon sense everything around you
The new phone uses software and sensors to track motions and size up the contours of rooms
Suppose your smartphone is clever enough to grasp your physical surroundings—the room’s size, the location of doors and windows and the presence of other people. What could it do with that info?
We’re about to get our first look. On Thursday, Lenovo will give consumers their first chance to buy a phone featuring Google’s 3-year-old Project Tango, an attempt to imbue machines with a better understanding about what’s around them.
Location tracking through GPS and cell towers tells apps where you are, but not much more. Tango uses software and sensors to track motions and size up the contours of rooms, empowering Lenovo’s new phone to map building interiors. That’s a crucial building block of a promising new frontier in “augmented reality,” or the digital projection of lifelike images and data into a real-life environment.
If Tango fulfills its promise, furniture shoppers will be able to download digital models of couches, chairs and coffee tables to see how they would look in their actual living rooms. Kids studying the Mesozoic Era would be able to place a virtual Tyrannosaurus or Velociraptor in their home or classroom—and even take selfies with one.
The technology would even know when to display information about an artist or a scene depicted in a painting as you stroll through a museum.
Tango will be able to create internal maps of homes and offices on the fly. Google won’t need to build a mapping database ahead of time, as it does with existing services like Google Maps and Street View. Nonetheless, Tango could raise fresh concerns about privacy if controls aren’t stringent enough to prevent the on-the-fly maps from being shared with unauthorized apps or heisted by hackers.
Lenovo announced its plans for the Tango phone in January, but Thursday will mark the first time that the company is showing the device publicly. At the Lenovo Tech World conference in San Francisco, the Chinese company is expected to announce the phone’s price and release date.
The efforts come as phone sales are slowing. People have been holding off on upgrades, partly because they haven’t gotten excited about the types of technological advances hitting the market during the past few years. Phones offering intriguing new technology could help spur more sales.