Giving devices full 3D vision is the next step in the consumer electronics evolution. This began with Kinect for the Xbox, and, although this process is still in its early phase, that is where all the technology giants seem to be setting their sights. Apple bought Primesense, the company that makes Kinect as well as 3D Systems’ Sense consumer 3D scanner.
Now Google is getting involved as Its Advanced Technology and Research Group is working on Project Tango. They are developing a new Android based smartphone that will be able to see the world around it in 3D. What this means is that it will map the environment through a double video camera and integrated sensors making a quarter of a million measurements each second, constantly updating its position in the environment.
Along with its custom hardware, the 5” smartphone includes development API to provide position, orientation and depth data to standard Android applications. The technology is thus already available: what Google is most struggling with is what it will be used for.
Its technicians are considering all the standard options: gaming, street directions, assistance to the visually impaired and shopping support. These, however, are not real innovations but simply evolutions of current smartphone capabilities.
The real innovation will be in the realm of physical photography, 3D modelling and physicalization of surrounding environments and objects through 3D printing interactions. Once you have an accurate 3D representation of a 3D environment it really takes very little to extrapolate virtual objects turning them into .stl files.
Surprisingly no one mentions 3D printing applications in the Google Tango project presentation. In fact Google is so starved for ideas that it has been giving away 200 prototype dev kits. Unfortunately all available units have been distributed. At 3DPI, we have a feeling that 3D printing will be a natural progression for this app.