Google’s Project Tango Phone Renders Real-Time Space-Motion; Is it Inspired by Batman?

February 28, 2014

1:19 pm

Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is considered a cult superhero action movie, and–in my opinion–remains the most vivid and mesmerizing cinematic experience of recent years. So what drew me to this nostalgia about Bruce Wayne’s adventures, and what does superhero fiction have to do with the context here?


Lucius Fox conceals his phone to map Lau's location in Hong Kong in the movie

The reason I’m drawn to the best Batman movie of all time is Google’s newest scientific idea of lending our smartphones the ability to interact with space and motion in a manner like humans do. Google calls it Project Tango, and this innovative idea has survived countless initial research days, evaluation and development cycles, and yet remains in its nascent stage. So where does Lucius Fox, Bruce Wayne, and Google’s Project Tango converge in context?

Batman using 3D feed from all mobile devices using Fox's SONAR concept

Batman using 3D mapping from all of the Gotham City's phones using Fox's SONAR concept

Lucius Fox, Wayne’s aid to tech wisdom and a source of high-end gadgets, applied SONAR concept to turn every cellphone device in Gotham city into live, visual 3D feed transmitters, which Batman very effectively uses to track down first Lau in Hong Kong and later Joker during the movie’s cult climax. Fox’s technical acumen isn’t much difference from what Google has developed with its Project Tango. Now, I'm not trying to imply that Google plagiarized! Project Tango can knock your socks off with its capability, and I have to say that if Lucius and Wayne weren’t things of fiction, they would actually be proud of what Google has accomplished.

Project Tango 101

Project Tango is Google’s long pursuit of making its mark on the glorious turf of smartphone hardware innovation, and taking the golden egg from Apple’s yard. As a result of the ongoing war between the two tech giants, Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects Group, headed by Johnny Lee, developed a smart “looking” phone that has a human-scale understanding of space and motion. What this actually means is the fact that the smartphone could create a 3D map of its surroundings.

After making our lives easier, many times over, Google now wants to create a more humanized interaction between our smartphones and space-motion. This conjecture clearly has some undertones of an alternate universe where smartphones are the living beings who use humans as a way to connect with each other. The imagination runs wild, and this is what makes Project Tango such a huge phenomenon in my little world.

The questions asked by Google: “What if you could capture the dimensions of your home simply by walking around with your phone before you went furniture shopping? What if directions to a new location didn’t stop at the street address? What if you never again found yourself lost in a new building? What if the visually-impaired could navigate unassisted in unfamiliar indoor places? What if you could search for a product and see where the exact shelf is located in a super-store?”

So where do we stand between Google’s fantasy and reality? Well, actually Google has developed the prototype version and is asking for developers to come out and help the tech giant in bringing those ideas into reality. The Google Prototype runs on Android and uses development APIs to determine space-time data, such as position and orientation, which are then processed to map a real-time 3D environment.

At present, smartphones have bounded our spatial memory within their 4- or 5-inch screens, and it will be interesting to see how they reciprocate after we provide them the ability to visualize and map space in the manner we ourselves do! We may have forfeited our control over perceiving space, time and motion for visually appealing apps, IMs and Twitter, but what could happen after we share that power with our smartphones? Mobiles having intuitive sense of space and time like us … well, isn’t that fascinating!

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Utkarsh Sahu writes for various tech mags and admires technology with paradigm-shifting attributes. Digital marketing, social media and content sum up his current beat. An analytics enthusiast, he likes to break down the key variables that work towards making successful digital marketing campaign. Adventure travel and sports are his idea of a perfect vacation. He loves social media, and can be reached via Twitter / Instagram as UtkSahu / Utkarshsj