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Google's Project Tango Seeks To Map a 3D World

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the your-bathroom-will-be-in-google-maps-soon dept.

Google 49

Nerval's Lobster writes "Google's Advanced Technology and Projects Group is working on a new initiative, Project Tango, which could allow developers to quickly map objects and interiors in 3D. At the heart of Project Tango is a prototype smartphone with a 5-inch screen, packed with hardware and software optimized to take 3D measurements of the surrounding environment. The associated development APIs can feed tons of positioning and orientation data to Android applications written in Java, C/C++, and the Unity Game Engine. In addition to a 'standard' 4-megapixel camera, the device features a motion-tracking camera and an aperture for integrated depth sensing; integrated into the circuitry are two computer-vision processors. Google claims it only has 200 developer units in stock, and it's willing to give them to independent developers who can submit a detailed idea for a project involving 3D mapping of some sort. The deadline for unit distribution is March 14, 2014. In theory, developers could use ultra-portable 3D mapping to create better maps, visualizations, and games. ('What if you could search for a product and see where the exact shelf is located in a super-store?' Google's Website asks at one point.) The bigger question is what Google intends to do with the technology if it proves effective. Google Maps with super-detailed interiors, anyone?"

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Robotics (5, Insightful)

Andrio (2580551) | about a year ago | (#46304513)

Everything Google is doing now is for their upcoming robotics division. This is how their robots will see and map the environment.
Man, I wish my Roomba had this ability, rather than just randomly moving and adjusting direction based on what it bumped into.

I'm really excited for the new robots industry :)

Re:Robotics (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46304579)

A sensor like this could be *very* cool for their self driving cars too... Possibly radically bringing down the cost...

Re:Robotics (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#46304597)

Now all we need are some anti gravity thrusters and we have the mapping pups [prometheus2-movie.com] of Prometheus.

Come on Google, you've done the hard part with taking over the planet - now lets get working on gravity. (Or is Apple supposed to do that after they get the watch thingy to work?)

Re:Robotics (1)

JudgeFurious (455868) | about a year ago | (#46305745)

Apple can't do it. They're busy with their immortality project. What? You didn't think Steve was really dead did you?

Re:Robotics (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about a year ago | (#46304683)

I think you are right their interest is in robotics. But it may also wind up being a boon to 3d printing. After all, a copy machine needs a scanner as well as a printer.

Re:Robotics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46305141)

Randomly moving and adjusting direction based on what he bumps into is how my grandfather handles the world these days.

I offered to buy glasses.

Re:Robotics (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about a year ago | (#46305163)

Yup, what AI needs most right now is a way to digitize its environment to 3d imagination space like you see in video games. Hey even if you made the technology and no robots, you could map out the world, and have video games that you play across the whole Earth :) Cannon ball run USA anyone? I have an AI blog, says the same thing, we need 3d digitization [botcraft.org]

Re:Robotics (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | about a year ago | (#46305545)

I wish my Roomba had this ability

Some of the competitors products do. I forget which one(s). There was a neat youtube video of some company's robot and it would decide when it was done a room and not go back into it, just by mapping out where the doors were as it went along.

Re:Robotics (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | about a year ago | (#46308311)

Think bigger. Pair this with some Google Glass/Oculus Rift hybrid (ie what that tech could become in the next decade or two) and some advanced augmented reality software. If you can map your world accurately, then you can project what you want on top of it accurately.

Anything you use but don't usually touch no longer has to actually exist -- it can be projected into reality. No TV. No screens of any sort really. Might be nice to have books, but you can just have one full of blank pages. Don't need artwork on your walls anymore. Don't need to buy fancy designer products either -- you can just "skin" the crap Walmart version. Broadcast the changes over wifi or bluetooth to anyone in the vicinity. Have security settings so your mom sees one set of decor, your friends see another, and your girlfriend sees a third. Even when they're all in the room together.

Even things you do interact with could be simulated somewhat. Map your hands as you project a keyboard below them. Wouldn't be ideal, but might be nice for when you're sitting on a bus or something. Then again, your "desktop computer" is now just an unplugged keyboard, so you might as well bring it with you. The monitor is projected, and the processing done on your portable device.

I doubt we'll ever have true holograms in any kind of widespread use -- because we're only a decade or two away from that idea being totally obsolete. Easier to calculate how the image *would* appear to each individual and show them that than it is to actually project the full image into the physical world.

Re:Robotics (1)

samwichse (1056268) | about a year ago | (#46311529)

You can already get a SLAM enabled vacuum robot.

I've had a Neato for 3 years and it makes Roomba look like a toy.

Project: Invasion of Privacy (0)

pubwvj (1045960) | about a year ago | (#46304553)

Project: Invasion of Privacy

And you speculated that you had any left.

Re:Project: Invasion of Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46304663)

Log off, jackass.

Re:Project: Invasion of Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46305425)

Now they know what office room you work in, the placement of the furniture in your living room, the rough dimensions of your interior living space. I hope you don't have any unpermitted additions to your house. Perfect information for the roach size drones of the future to find your bedroom for assasination purposes.

Project idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46304563)

Someone should try building a digital model of the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City MO.

They do not allow photography in the visiting exhibits, so those sections would have to be excluded, but their permanent collection should be okay. They do allow photography, if done without flash or tripod, so I imagine they'd be open to the idea.

I'd offer the idea myself, but I don't really have the time to try to negotiate with both Google and the museum, try to find time when the lighting will be good but there won't be too many people, and spend hours walking through every inch of their exhibits. However it seems like the perfect sort of thing to have this technology piloted, so if somebody else wants to run with this idea, by all means go ahead with it.

Search and Rescue (2)

grimStone (3536793) | about a year ago | (#46304573)

Build this functionality into a small quadcopter and you could use it to scout and unknown enviroment. Map an unknown enviroment in 3d before sending in personnel.

Re:Search and Rescue (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46304611)

Been done already several times with every sensor known to man.

Re:Search and Rescue (1)

bigpat (158134) | about a year ago | (#46305275)

Yes, but this appears to just use a pair of cameras on the back of a regular phone. Most accurate 3D mapping for robotics is being done with expensive and more energy intensive (battery draining) LIDARs. Cameras are cheap and don't use a lot of power so using cameras could drive down the cost of mapping 3D environments or mapping an object for 3D printing if it is something that gets included in new phones... again sure it has been done, but not in something that could just be added as a feature to everyone's phone for a few bucks.

Re:Search and Rescue (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#46305309)

Yes, but this appears to just use a pair of cameras on the back of a regular phone.

Parent is not wrong. It has been done with every sensor known to man including stereo pairs and structured light projection.

Re:Search and Rescue (1)

bigpat (158134) | about a year ago | (#46305765)

No not wrong. What has been done before is 3D mapping using cameras. And even putting those cameras on a quad-rotor. And yes the first post about building the functionality into a quad-rotor was also a bit ignorant of recent work that has put cameras onto quad-rotors to do 3D mapping, but the underlying enthusiasm about what new capability is being provided is still valid if you consider it a bit less narrowly.

If you could just strap a smartphone that had a 3D camera onto a quad-rotor or ground robot and get 3D mapping capability "out of the box", then you have just reduced the cost and complexity (or DIY time) of 3D mapping down by an order of magnitude and that does open up new possibilities.

Fuck Beta (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46304581)

Error 503 Service Unavailable

Service Unavailable Guru Meditation:

XID: 1932201264

Varnish cache server

Street view 3D? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46304633)

So now not only will we get pictures of our neighbors online, but now we'll know their dimensions too!

I think I've seen this one before-- (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46304635)

The password is 'Lucius'.

consumerism at its finest (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46304643)

"What if you could search for a product and see where the exact shelf is located in a super-store?"
such an unhappy remark. that may be useful for store owners, not for me. if that's the way they try to sell it to me, well, no.

Re:consumerism at its finest (1)

LordKronos (470910) | about a year ago | (#46304905)

Why isn't that useful to consumers? I can't tell you the number of time I've spent 10 minutes looking for a product, going up and down aisles, ask an employee which aisle it's in, still can't find it, and then finally realize I've walked right by it a half dozen times. If I could just pull out my phone and it could lead me right to it, I'd love it. That's not them forcing something on me...it's helping me more easily find something I already know I want.

Still, such a thing is probably quite a ways out. Just think about how often stores reorganize their merchandise. Any maps like this would quickly be out of date. It's not really feasible until it would be cheap enough for a store to own a mappinig robot of their very own and have it automatically map the aisles by itself at night once a week.

Re:consumerism at its finest (1)

Kelbear (870538) | about a year ago | (#46305441)

Pretty sure most of the big stores (at least those with a perpetual inventory system) include location markers like aisle 4, shelf 5, 30 units (you can see those RGIS count tags left behind on shelves in the store with that information after a midnight inventory count).

If a product aisle 1, shelf 3, they'd just update that location in the database. So the store's indoor navigation map shouldn't just keep routing to static product locations, but just query for the current location. The underlying 3d map of the store layout would still be valid for navigating.

I like the idea of mapping public spaces like that, sounds like Google is laying a foundation for quite a lot of useful technologies with this data (whether we want them or not).

Re:consumerism at its finest (1)

ThatAblaze (1723456) | about a year ago | (#46305507)

Wall-Mart already tracks the location of everything on their shelf using RFID. They just don't give that data to consumers. So basically they agree with you: Right now it is more useful to store owners than to consumers. However, this is just a more detailed version of GPS. Many people have already let go of their ability to find their way around town without the help of their phone maps. Given a strong enough push many users would probably give up their ability to find their way around a supermarket as well.

Just imagine how great the world will be once we all rely on technology to such an extent that without it we are totally helpless. How can you not find that appealing?

Re:consumerism at its finest (1)

cmorriss (471077) | about a year ago | (#46305677)

Lowe's already has this in their mobile app. They recently added bin numbers to all their shelving. Select a store, search for something and it will give you the aisle and shelf number in addition a map of the store with the location pointed out.

So this is pretty much done, and in a very nice way.

not for me (3, Funny)

clovis (4684) | about a year ago | (#46304681)

I'm from Flatland, you insensitive clod!

I want to know (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | about a year ago | (#46304745)

Will it help my wife find her glasses?

We can finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46304761)

catch the Joker.

Not independnet developers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46304769)

From the linked webpage:

Unfortunately, due to FCC restrictions, we can only send development units to incorporated entities or institutions at this time.

Re: Not independnet developers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46304829)

Incorporating costs what, like $300?

Online clothes that fit (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46304861)

Scan my feet/hands/body and sell me some shoes/gloves/clothes that fit.

Tango Dropbox (1)

Timothy Hartman (2905293) | about a year ago | (#46305003)

Here's to hoping Google can force them to change their name again.

corporations and institutions only. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46305073)

I have an idea for an application of this technology that would greatly benefit my daily life, but since I'm not a corporation or institution, I can't participate. :( Maybe I can get in on a future round of dev kits if nobody else has had the same idea by the time they are available to a wider audience.

What this is really about (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46305109)

Stealing a comment from reddit [reddit.com] :

Warning: this video is not what it appears. To all of you saying "WHY THE HELL WOULD I WANT A 3D ENVIRONMENT ON MY PHONE?? TO PLAY GAMESS??", you are not the target consumer.

TO you, the average consumer, it may seem like a neat new project with some cool implications like indoor navigation ("I'm inside the mall, how do I get to Macy's?" or "I am at a football game, where is the nearest hot dog stand?").

Now think about what Google is; Google is evolving far past an advertising company and more into a "big data" provider.

Take it a step further. Combine this tech with Google Glass (or some other wearable peripheral we may not know about), and the possibilities expand ("Where is the user looking usually?" "What is the optimal location for this new billboard? Based on Google Glass 3d mapping data, drivers look to the Northwest usually when traveling down Route 33).

Take it even further to Google's long-known project to catalogue everything on the planet. This will expand into their goal to be able to "Google" real-life stuff. Like a real life Control + F. You lost your keys? You don't remember where you put them, but your phone combined with your Google Glass remembers exactly where they are. Even if it doesn't remember, perhaps you can swivel your head around the room, scanning it with a camera until it alerts you that you are looking directly at an object that looks just like a pair of keys.

Now expand that further; big data. Have you been looking at sweaters a lot lately? Tango knows you've been shopping in department stores when you go to the mall. They can feed this data to advertisers, learn your color preferences, learn everything about you and be able to direct you to products.

Google can learn the shopping habits - of EVERY PERSON IN THE WORLD - and relay that information to marketers. Tell them where the best place to organize their products in brick-and-mortar stores, what and when to put items on sale at a specific time.

Google will be able to provide sales data BEFORE the sale is even MADE. Perhaps in early September people start shopping for winter clothes in New York City, but in August they were googling a new jacket, maybe looked around a leather store and looked at some jackets, etc.

This has huge market potential when combined with all of Google's other products. Remember this project isn't just a side project, this is the result of huge acquisitions and a scientific approach to recruiting and retaining top talent (we are talking salaries in excess of 1 million).

Google is moving to be the top "information manufacturer" in this new information age. Amazing! Wish I was a part of it.

Re:What this is really about (1)

number17 (952777) | about a year ago | (#46306169)

Google can learn the shopping habits - of EVERY PERSON IN THE WORLD - and relay that information to marketers.

The buzzword is "Comprehensive In-Store Analytics" [retailnext.net] .

Re:What this is really about (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | about a year ago | (#46308595)

I've been waiting for tech like this, to combine with Google Glass as well -- but to do the exact reverse of what that quote suggests.

Instead of using Glass to scan reality into a digital model, *use it to project a digital model into reality*. This will allow MUCH better augmented reality than we currently have. Perhaps to the point where you can change the color of your bed sheets with the press of a button. If you could achieve that, there's a whole lot of manual labor that suddenly becomes pure information. Information that is infinitely reproducible. That could damn near take us post-scarcity...and what exactly do you need? This, plus something like a mix of Google Glass and the Oculus Rift. No radical new tech, just incremental improvements on products that are already available. How many (or how *few*) years do you think that will take...?

Am I missing something huge here? I don't expect it today or even this decade...but I'm 23 right now, so barring an untimely death or global catastrophe, it seems all but certain that I will live to see this happen. Which is by far the most exciting and outright crazy thought I've ever had...

sneak 'n peek (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46305113)

The TLA of your choice is going to love this to make sure they put all your stuff back exactly the way it was when they broke in.

And yet, they still can't... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46305195)

And yet they still can't have updated imagery for my town, a popular-ish seaside town of 50,000~ people.
I can literally see my childhood in Google Maps, 27 at that, just before you think to ask.
The childhood ignored, this town has expanded and changed considerably over said 27 years.
  Some roads don't even exist any more, entire new neighbourhoods that will remain uncharted for thousands of years and are only known about in legend.

But seriously, cool stuff indeed. I remember I was going to do a similar thing to street view for my town and create a 3D map of it, but life took another turn for me.
That is, without all the cool algorithms to create the 3D geometry for me.

Google Glass. (1)

Clyde Machine (1851570) | about a year ago | (#46305323)

Integrate this project with Google Glass. Or have they already?

Availability Date (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46305539)

This is what I'm most interested in. When can I as a non-institution entity get one?

Careful, guys (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46305999)

If you send that to a 3D printer, we'll have TWO Earths! THAT's how powerful 3D printing is.

Still waiting... (1)

jpellino (202698) | about a year ago | (#46308251)

...for the shop that has the lumbars to name their next 3D printer "Slarti Jr."

Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46306157)

The choice of burglars everywhere.

Real Estate and Construction (1)

tgeller (10260) | about a year ago | (#46306587)

There are two potentially huge markets. I, for one, would like to be able to take a few (360-degree) photos of my house and have SketchUp [sketchup.com] (formerly owned by Google) deliver a 3D version that prospective buyers could "walk around in" via their browsers. Similarly, construction works spend a lot of effort making site measurements to create estimates, order materials, etc.. If that could be automatically produced via 3D renderings, all the better.

Meh. (1)

jpellino (202698) | about a year ago | (#46308241)

Jack Bauer and his pals already have 3D maps and schematics of every power plant, office building, warehouse, outhouse and chicken shack. Not to mention full control of the power, network and hot and cold water taps in each of them. And all in the time it takes Chloe to recalibrate the beam forming firewall protocols against the binary-coded output logs. Or something.

Which is it? C or C++? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46308573)

There's no such language as C/C++. C and C++ are very different. Either you have C bindings, or C++ bindings, or both, but you don't have C/C++ bindings.

If you mean C bindings that can be used from C++ then just say C. C++ programmers know they can use C libraries.

anyone want to make a company? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#46309553)

Real estate agents would love to have a product like this. If they could walk around an apartment with a tool that would create a floor plan, they'd pay a ton of money for it. Anyone want to start a company? We could easily hack something together with a kinect and the sdk,,, I call CTO tho.. or CEO would work too.

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