After acquiring just about any robotics company worth something, Google research have now revealed one of their internal projects that aims to create a mobile phone that has all the necessary hardware and software to create beautiful 3D models of indoor environments. Project Tango is the first prototype of a highly customized smart phone with all the necessary sensors for localization and mapping.
In the past, we have introduced the problem of SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) and its significance in robotics.
Project Tango adds 2 computer visions processors and a depth sensor (not clear what this depth sensor is but probably a kinect-like sensor of smaller size and resolution is a possible candidate) along with a motion tracking camera to accompany a standard 4MP phone camera. With such a great collection of sensors and a myriad of very advanced SLAM algorithms developed over the last 15 years by the robotics community, the reality of Project Tango should not be surprising.
It will be interesting to see what kinds of applications could be built using such a platform. For the time being, creating 3D models for gaming is an obvious focus but they also suggest assistive living, e.g., guide application for the visually impaired, as another possibility. Google is giving away 200 prototype phones for those interested in developing applications.
The following video was released by the Project Tango team and tries to explain some of the reasoning behind the creation of this project and also discuss some future directions.