Mobile Computing

Lenovo Building Phone To Run Google Project Tango

This summer we can expect to see the first mobile device engineered to run apps on Google's Project Tango, and it has education possibilities written all over it. Lenovo will be creating the first original equipment manufacturer (OEM) smartphone in collaboration with Google.

Project Tango technology adds spatial perception to a device by adding the ability to track its position as it moves through the physical world and keeping a record of that. The platform runs on Android and adds advanced computer vision, image processing and vision sensors. As the user runs a Project Tango app, specially tuned hardware and software direct the device to track every movement of the user as he or she steps forward or backward or moves side to side,

Unlike GPS the new software can track motion indoors by monitoring the dimensions of the room and the user's position within that space.

As part of the announcement, which came during CES 2016, the two companies also said they are encouraging coders to submit app proposals for Project Tango to be considered for development funding and the chance to have it pre-installed on the new Lenovo device through an app incubator. The submission period ends on February 15, 2016.

Expected in summer 2016, the new smartphone will operate with the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. The companies said Qualcomm Technologies is working "closely" with them to optimize the technology.

Google has reached out to a number of universities to undertake research and development for its platform. Some of it is internal to the device. George Washington U researchers in its School of Engineering & Applied Science, for example, came up with code  to handle camera calibration for Project Tango devices. The U Massachusetts Lowell Robotics Lab is developing ways to link Project Tango to Robot Operating System (ROS) to facilitate the use of robots in scenarios such as search and rescue.

But there are user use cases as well. Purdue U's Envision Center and Institute of Accessible Science has created an app that turns location data into sounds that get louder and more frequent as the user approaches furniture or walls, for use by people with impaired vision.

Then there are the interesting learning projects that can be undertaken by students outfitted with a Lenovo phone. As teacher Rob Letcher suggests, how about having students map their homes and then having "an augmented reality simulation that places historical figures" there on their own furniture and talking about their lives? Or what about science applications, such as watching a ball bounce and then changing "gravity settings to see how the behavior of the ball changes"?

"With Project Tango, the smartphone becomes a magic window into the physical world by enabling it to perceive space and motion that goes beyond the boundaries of a touch screen," said Johnny Lee, Google lead, in a press release. "By working with Lenovo, we'll be able to make Project Tango more accessible to users and developers all over the world to both enjoy and create new experiences that blends the virtual and real world."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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