Google unveils phone with 3D mapping technology

Google has put the new technology into the hands of gaming and application developers, distributing 200 prototypes of the phone to experts throughout the mobile industry.

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Last fall, Apple trumped the other smartphone manufacturers by being the first company to offer a fingerprint scanner and a superior processing chip as part of its iPhone 5S. Now, it looks like Google is getting an edge of its own in the smartphone market.

According to a report from BBC News, Google has unveiled a brand-new prototype smartphone that has the capability to create 3D maps “of a user’s surroundings.” Supposedly, the new phone is able to make approximately 250,000 3D sensor measurements every second, allowing it to create a 3D mock-up of surrounding environments almost like a sonar device would. The phone is able to adapt its 3D maps in real time, creating updated 3D visualizations of the environment as the user moves and their surroundings shift around them.

The new phone, currently being referred to as “Project Tango,” is being developed by Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects department in partnership with people from different companies and research institutions. Particularly, Google has put the new technology into the hands of gaming and application developers, distributing 200 prototypes of the phone to experts throughout the mobile industry. The hope, of course, is that developers will be able to use Project Tango’s groundbreaking 3D technology to develop applications and games that have heretofore been impossible for mobile platforms.

In addition to the exciting gaming potential of the device, Google is also hopeful that Project Tango will have a number of practical uses. For instance, Google thinks that by mapping 3D environments in real time, Project Tango could be used by visually impaired users to assist in the navigation of unfamiliar areas. Potentially, the technology could also inspire Google to extend its well-known “Maps” navigation program to indoor environments, helping users to find certain rooms or businesses within sprawling and confusing buildings.

Regardless of what Project Tango ends up being used for, it is certainly an exciting development in the mobile device market, and could make Google a standalone competitor to Apple for market share. Already, Google is battling with Apple by installing its Android operating system on as many smartphones as possible. However, Google has thus far mostly stayed out of the device game, a fact that Project Tango could change and make quite a splash in the process.

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