Project Tango

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Project Tango
Developer Google
Product family Mobile 3D technology
Release date June 5, 2014; 4 years ago (2014-06-05)
Operating system Android
Website Project Tango

Project Tango is a Google technology platform that uses computer vision to enable mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, to detect their position relative to the world around them without using GPS or other external signals. This allows application developers to create user experiences that include indoor navigation, 3D mapping, measurement of physical spaces, recognition of known environments, augmented reality, and windows into virtual 3D worlds.

The first product to emerge from Google's ATAP skunkworks group,[1] Project Tango was developed by a team led by computer scientist Johnny Lee, a core contributor to Microsoft's Kinect. In an interview in June 2015, Lee said, "We're developing the hardware and software technologies to help everything and everyone understand precisely where they are, anywhere."[2]

Google has produced two devices to demonstrate the Project Tango technology: the Peanut phone (no longer available) and the Yellowstone 7-inch tablet. More than 3,000 of these devices had been sold as of June 2015,[3] chiefly to researchers and software developers interested in building applications for the platform. In the summer of 2015, Qualcomm and Intel both announced that they are developing Project Tango reference devices as models for device manufacturers who use their mobile chipsets.[4][5]

At CES, in January 2016, Google announced a partnership with Lenovo to release a consumer smartphone during the summer of 2016 to feature Project Tango technology marketed at consumers, noting a less than $500 price-point and a small form factor below 6.5 inches. At the same time, both companies also announced an application incubator to get applications developed to be on the device on launch.


Project Tango is different from other emerging 3D-sensing computer vision products, such as Microsoft Hololens, in that it's designed to run on a standalone mobile phone or tablet and is chiefly concerned with determining the device's position and orientation within the environment.

The software works by integrating three types of functionality:

  • Motion-tracking: using visual features of the environment, in combination with accelerometer and gyroscope data, to closely track the device's movements in space
  • Area learning: storing environment data in a map that can be re-used later, shared with other Project Tango devices, and enhanced with metadata such as notes, instructions, or points of interest
  • Depth perception: detecting distances, sizes, and surfaces in the environment

Together, these generate data about the device in "six degrees of freedom" (3 axes of orientation plus 3 axes of motion) and detailed three-dimensional information about the environment.

Applications on mobile devices use Project Tango's C and Java APIs to access this data in real time. In addition, an API is also provided for integrating Project Tango with the Unity game engine; this enables the rapid conversion or creation of games that allow the user to interact and navigate in the game space by moving and rotating a Project Tango device in real space. These APIs are documented on the Google developer website.[6]


Project Tango enables apps to track a device's position and orientation within a detailed 3D environment, and to recognize known environments. This makes possible applications such as in-store navigation, visual measurement and mapping utilities, presentation and design tools, and a variety of immersive games. At Augmented World Expo 2015,[7] Johnny Lee demonstrated a construction game that builds a virtual structure in real space, an AR showroom app that allows users to view a full-size virtual automobile and customize its features, a hybrid Nerf gun with mounted Project Tango screen for dodging and shooting AR monsters superimposed on reality, and a multiplayer VR app that lets multiple players converse in a virtual space where their avatar movements match their real-life movements.[8]

Project Tango apps are distributed through the Google Play Store. Google has encouraged the development of more apps with hackathons, an app contest, and promotional discounts on the development tablet.[9]


As a platform for software developers and a model for device manufacturers, Google has created two Project Tango devices to date.

The Yellowstone tablet

Google's Project Tango tablet, 2014

"Yellowstone" is a 7-inch tablet with full Project Tango functionality, released in June 2014, and sold as the Project Tango Tablet Development Kit.[10] It features a 2.3 GHz quad-core Nvidia Tegra K1 processor, 128GB flash memory, 1920x1200-pixel touchscreen, 4MP color camera, fisheye-lens (motion-tracking) camera, integrated depth sensing, and 4G LTE connectivity.[11] The device is sold through the official Project Tango website[12] and the Google Play Store.

The Peanut phone

"Peanut" was the first production Project Tango device, released in the first quarter of 2014. It was a small Android phone with a Qualcomm MSM8974 quad-core processor and additional special hardware including a fisheye-lens camera (for motion tracking), "RGB-IR" camera (for color images and infrared depth detection), and Movidius Vision processing units. A high-performance accelerometer and gyroscope were added after testing several competing models in the MARS lab at the University of Minnesota.

Several hundred Peanut devices were distributed to early-access partners including university researchers in computer vision and robotics, as well as application developers and technology startups. Google stopped supporting the Peanut device in September 2015, as by then the Project Tango software stack had evolved beyond the versions of Android that run on the device.

Testing by NASA

In May 2014, two Peanut phones were delivered to the International Space Station to be part of a NASA project to develop autonomous robots that navigate in a variety of environments, including outer space. The soccer-ball-sized, 18-sided polyhedral SPHERES robots were developed at the NASA Ames Research Center, adjacent to the Google campus in Mountain View, California. Andres Martinez, SPHERES manager at NASA, said "We are researching how effective Project Tango's vision-based navigation abilities are for performing localization and navigation of a mobile free flyer on ISS.[13]

Collaborators and partners

In creating Project Tango, Google has collaborated with developers in nine countries including Bosch, Bsquare, CompalComm, ETH Zurich, Flyby Media, George Washington University, MMSolutions, Movidius, University of Minnesota MARS Lab,[14] JPL Computer Vision Group,[15] OLogic, OmniVision, Open Source Robotics Foundation, Paracosm, Sunny Optical Technology, PMD Technologies, Mantis Vision, Prizmiq, and SagivTech.

Partnerships have been announced[16][17] with companies that include apelab, AutoDesk, Aisle411, Bosch, Defective Studios, Durovis (Dive), Infineon, JPL, Left Field Labs, Limbic, moBack, NVYVE, OmniVision, Otherworld Interactive, PMD Technologies, Sagivtech, SideKick, Speck Design, Stinkdigital, and Inuitive.

See also


  1. Announcement on ATAP Google+ site, 30 January 2015<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Future Phones Will Understand, See the World". 3 June 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Slamdance: inside the weird virtual reality of Google's Project Tango". 29 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Qualcomm Powers Next Generation Project Tango Development Platform, 2015-05-29<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. IDF 2015: Intel teams with Google to bring RealSense to Project Tango, 2015-08-18<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Google developer website
  7. Augmented World Expo 2015
  8. AWE 2015, "Mobile 3D Tracking and Perception"<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Google says these are the best apps for Project Tango, 2 November 2015<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Product announcement on ATAP Google+ page, 5 June 2014, retrieved 4 November 2015<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Specs on official site, retrieved 4 November 2015<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Project Tango website
  13. Google's Project Tango headed to International Space Station, 20 March 2014<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. University of Minnesota MARS Lab
  15. JPL Computer Vision Group
  16. AWE 2015, "Mobile 3D Tracking and Perception"<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. List of partners on official site, retrieved 4 November 2015<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links