Google’s Project Tango tablet enables a literal “flight mode”

At Google’s I/O developer conference this year we’re expecting a limited-run debut of “Project Tango” tablets which have a 7-inch screen, infrared depth sensors, two back-mounted cameras, and "advanced software that can capture precise three-dimensional images of objects," according to people briefed on the company's plans. The project’s aim is to learn and 3D map the world around the devices for producing things like indoor imagery.

From this indoor imagery, a team from the University of Pennsylvania led by Professor Vijay Kumar has utilised a Tango-equipped smartphone to enable a quadrocopter to navigate the interior of a building. Brings a whole new meaning to “flight mode” doesn’t it?

Project Tango devices are equipped with a projector which transmits a grid of infra-red dots to illuminate the surroundings, which are subsequently detected by the matching infra-red camera. Through detecting the size of the dots it tells the device how far away a wall or object is and allows it to construct a detailed 3D model of the surroundings.

In the video below, which shows the team’s quadrocopter in action, the indoor imagery allows the drone to fly at an incredible accuracy of only 1cm. The only assistive equipment it needs is an inertial measurement unit – no GPS or vision systems are necessary.

You can imagine Amazon will want to be – if they aren’t already – looking into this technology for their delivery drones. The drones being able to recognise where they need to go in the warehouse and what item to pick-up will prevent the inevitable story of someone being shipped a PlayStation when they’ve ordered a curtain.

The tablet will apparently not be released to the public and instead 4,000 will be produced to be given to developers. It is thought that Google may even hand the Tablet devices out for free at I/O this year in June.

With Facebook recently acquiring VR headset specialists Oculus, it is likely Google is exploring the field using such technology as that implemented in Project Tango.

What do you think about Project Tango and its potential? Let us know in the comments.

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