March 20, 2014 – The sheeple are jumping for joy with Google’s new enslavement scanning device that will scan your home and all surroundings. Put this together with Google’s other home invasion programs and you will have a constant 3D heat map of you and your home.
For me, it is a bit like magic. Having been involved with 3D scanner since the ’90s (that’s last century, kiddos!) as part of the MENSI team that was acquired by Trimble in 2003, I have been dreaming of some sort of 3D scanning device for home use since then. Microsoft Kinect accomplished being a mainstream 3D scanner for home with millions of devices sold (and a few hacked) connected to the Xbox 360. Now, our friends at Google are bringing that experience and tool to my pocket with a portable, practical, 3D-scanner phone. Google’s Project Tango is here and it is real.
Here is what is in the box: a white cardboard box, the phone, two chargers and cables (one USB 3.0 that I can plug to my Mac and one USB 2.0 — 10 Watts), and a quick-start instruction guide.
Project Tango — what’s in the box
USB 3.0 connection
USB 2.0 connection
Once you land on the SDK site, there is a definition of the project’s project’s name (yes, Project Tango also has another name: Peanut, which correspond to the second version of the prototype — you can see the first prototype in the unveiling video at the 58th second)
PEA·NUT / ˈpēnət / Noun
1. A mobile device that will change the world of mobile computer vision forever.
2. Tasty seed of a South American plant.
Both of these definitions sound really good. Actually, the first one is ambitious but I could see why as I started using the phone. Once you turn the unit on, you can play with it right away. As part of the OS, you get the DepthViewer App. Launch it and you will see depth images in real time of the sensor in the phone.
You can turn the Camera App on and get pictures from all four cameras on the phone, including the depth sensor, designed by PrimeSense.
Of course, with all these sensors the CPU needs to capture and display in 3D, Tango has a tendency to heat up and drain its battery fairly fast. But remember, this is only the second prototype. It may be months before you see a mainstream device available for sale (or available as part of another Explorer program, like Glass) and Google’s engineers have time to fix these issues. I was amazed to see how fast they transformed the first prototype (that was only a proof of concept) into a fully functional Android device. At that speed, version 3 might reserve a few new surprises…
Over the years, I have been lucky enough to play with some quite interesting 3D scanners, including the new Trimble TX8. Because of that, I have millimeter-accurate 3D scans of my home, indoor and outdoor. I activated the Tango Mapper app and started capturing data in the house.
Omar’s home captured with a Trimble TX8 3D scanner
I isolate in the data set the first floor, with the idea to do a quick comparison with the Tango captured point cloud.
First floor — Trimble TX8 3D scanner data
Tango data of the first floor
Trimble TX8 scanner and Tango data combined
In the green area, Tango did actually pretty well. In the yellow areas, the data drifted.
In red, Tango; in blue, Trimble TX8
As I expected, Tango did very well in some areas… and drifted in some others. A few factors are definitely changing the way the data are captured: temperature of the sensors, light conditions, number of passes, and others. Like with every new technology, best practices will have to be developed (potential addition of targets and capturing the area twice, just to name a couple potential ideas to explore). In addition, I did take the raw data directly from the unit. Google does have an offline process to run dense mapping based off of a bundle-adjusted pose. This should really help lessen drift issues, but I haven’t had time to fully test this yet.
Nevertheless, we are at the very beginning of the next phone and tablet revolution. The integration of sensors in one device, no additional accessory needed, will bring to the market a new area of apps, from gaming to professional applications. The games with augmented reality are already bringing a new dimension to the experience. I believe that shopping experiences will be completely transformed. You could already foresee an IKEA app, where you would “3D” model your existing kitchen with a Tango phone and order a completely new cabinet set online… delivered by an IKEA drone?
And talking about drones, robotics with computer vision will become easier by plugging a Tango to your robot and programing it to avoid obstacles when moving to a specific target.
Here is a bit more about the robotic use of Tango: Google has also included drivers for USB to serial support for things like the 3D Robotics Iris, or Kobuki from Yujin Robot. With the USB2 OTG, you can connect to slave accessories (robots), which optionally charge over the USB 3.0 port (this is especially handy for the Kobuki, which can self-dock to recharge the base).
We are at the beginning, and the clever app developers and makers from around the world will discover and create new ways of using Tango. Not just taking selfies.