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Google, Lenovo Team On Project Tango Smartphone

Lenovo announced at CES that it will release a smartphone that integrates Google's Project Tango spatial sensing technology this summer.

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10 Healthcare Wearables, Devices Dominating CES
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At the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show on Thursday, Lenovo said it is working on a Project Tango smartphone that will be available this summer.

Project Tango is a technology platform developed by Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group that allows mobile devices with specialized image sensors to measure depth and track motion.

Developers can use this information to create apps that present augmented reality or virtual reality environments -- forms of media that happen to be areas of intense research and innovation at the moment. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Sony, and Samsung, among others, have AR or VR products in the market or on the way.

Developers can also use Project Tango to create apps rooted in reality. Project Tango devices can measure real spaces with more precision than standard smartphones, making them potentially useful tools for applications involving indoor navigation, construction, design, and related disciplines. Maps of indoor spaces generated through Project Tango image sensors tend to be far more accurate than those created from GPS data.

(Image: Lenovo)

(Image: Lenovo)

Google introduced Project Tango in 2014 and made the technology available in June that year to developers through its Project Tango Tablet Development Kit -- a 7-inch Android tablet and associated software.

Lenovo's Android-based Project Tango smartphone will be the first such device available to consumers. It will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. Further hardware specifications have yet to be disclosed.

"To break new ground in today's hypercompetitive smartphone and tablet industries, we must take innovation risks -- it's the only way to truly change the way people use mobile technology," said Chen Xudong, senior vice president and president of Lenovo's mobile business group, in a statement.

[Read Intel CEO Details Sensor-Packed Future at CES 2016.]

One risk is that there won't be enough must-have software to convince consumers to buy a Project Tango smartphone. There are already several dozen Project Tango-enabled apps in Google Play for developers who have compatible hardware. These include NVYVE Car Visualizer, which provides a way to interact with a virtual car; Project Tango MeasureIt, which lets the user take room measurements; and HeroArcade's WeRCubed -- Tango Edition. As befits the experimental nature of Project Tango, many of these apps aren't particularly polished.

To promote the creation of compelling Project Tango apps, Google and Lenovo have launched App Incubator. The contest allows developers to submit app proposals for a chance to win funding and distribution on Lenovo's Project Tango smartphone. Developers must submit their proposals by February 15. Those selected will be notified by March 15.

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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