While Apple’s next iPhone seems to show little potential for great change, Google announces Android software integration with one of their most forward-thinking projects ever: Tango. Apple has built a massive consumer following with the idea that their iPhone is reliable, secure, and ubiquitous – unavoidably present in the public eye. Google, on the other hand, creates the software that manufacturers of all sorts then use to create their own, unique smartphones. This week, Google announced that they’d be adding Tango software to the next version of Android. This could change the public’s expectations for a great smartphone entirely.
When Apple created the iPhone, Steve Jobs defined the device as a combination of a phone, an iPod, and an internet communications device. Three areas of focus. Those three areas of focus have not radically changed for the smartphone – any smartphone – since the year 2007.
Vast amounts of people use their smartphone as some combination of cell phone, music player, and internet browsing device. It’s the same as it always was.
See the article by the name of “Bad Context: Why nobody, not even Apple, has done mobile right” by Chris Davies. Written back in April of 2013, you’ll see frustration in the state of the smartphone universe.
What’s changed since then?
Not a whole lot.
Most people have a smartphone – it would seem, if shipping estimates are correct, that they don’t need or want another smartphone that does the same thing as their first.
If the most recent renderings of the next iPhone turn out to be accurate, there’s very little room for Apple to improve what the device is capable of doing for the user.
Meanwhile Google has been working very publicly on Project Tango – making smartphones and tablets capable of understanding 3D space. What’s encouraging about this is that Google appears to be aiming to get the public prepared for the next level in mobile computing and contextual understanding of space. They don’t just want to spring it on us.
This should not come as a surprise – Google doesn’t want to surprise anyone with this technology. They want people to use it, not just consume it.
Google just announced that they’ve begun integrating Tango functionality into the next version of their mobile OS, Android N. Tango technology is going to be active in smartphones as early as late this year.
Above you’ll see Google announcing Tango tech for Android N at Google I/O 2016.
Here’s what Tango can do already – the following demos are on developer devices, already able to work out in the wild without the assistance of a PC. Everything that’s being done here is being done inside either a Tango tablet or a Tango smartphone.
Above you’ll see some Area Learning going on. The dots you see are placed on landmarks the device sees in space, and the space is recognized the next time these spots are seen.
And the world is mapped.
Another demo – below – shows the most basic way in which this Area Learning business can be used. You can place an object in space and leave it, only to find that object still sitting in the same space when you return.
The simplest most functional – and helpful – app we’ve seen shown on a Tango device is this: Google Measure It.
What Measure It will do is find flat spaces, edges, and recognizable planes in the environment you’re working with. These areas are tracked in 3D space, and line segments can be placed wherever you wish.
These segments are measured in the device – accurately – and you can create 3D boxes to measure empty space.
Finally there’s this app by the name of Dinosaurs Among Us. It’s incredible.
It allows you to place a dinosaur in your environment and watch it move. Better than a traditional AR fabrication, this virtual animal can be seen from all angles, far away and up close, and has interactive bits as well.
These dinosaurs will stand in place wherever you’ve placed them, allowing study and play in 3D space.
This is the next wave in feature growth, functionality, and usefulness in mobile smart devices. Your smartphone will be able to see and understand the physical space you’re in just like you do.
Unless Apple has something hidden up their sleeve SO WELL that no one person outside their shroud of secrecy has yet caught glimpse of it – or even predicted it – the company may be in for a rude awakening.
And whoever can make a solid Android phone capable of working with Tango first – they’ll be lauded as a leader of the new school.
ALSO: Remember too that Google has suggested that Tango and Android VR – Daydream – will one day work together publicly. Cross your fingers for soon!