Steve Kovach/Business Insider
MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA — Google wants to turn your phone into an augmented reality machine.
Augmented reality, or AR, is the concept of layering digital images on top of the real world. If you’ve played Pokémon Go or used a Snapchat Lens, then you’ve already experienced AR to one degree.
Google has one of the most powerful mobile AR tools with Tango, a project that has been years in the making and sprung out of its secretive product division called ATAP.
Today, Tango is getting closer to running on a wide variety of powerful Android phones and the company showed off the platform’s latest capabilities at its annual I/O conference this week.
Here’s a quick look at what Tango can do today, and some hints at what it’ll be able to do in the future as it comes to more devices.
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Tango won’t work on just any phone. It requires a lot of processing power and an array of special cameras and sensors.
This Asus phone is equipped with everything you need to run Tango. Eventually, this will shrink down and work with a wider variety of devices.
In this demo, Tango is used in a classroom to show a bunch of students a virtual globe floating in the middle of the room.
Students are given Tango phones on selfie sticks.
You can only see the globe through the Tango phone’s camera lens. Here’s what happens when you put the phone down.
The coolest part is how the globe is anchored in real space. You can move around it or get closer, giving you the impression it’s really there.
Tango can also be used for storytelling and games. Here’s Tango’s take on “The Wizard of Oz.” That’s the scarecrow playing around. He even drew on the walls.
This woman took a photo with a virtual Lion.
You can see how there’d be a lot of possibilities for this technology, ranging from education to gaming.
The Gap built a Tango app that lets you try on clothes without going to the store.
You give the app your measurements and it creates a virtual mannequin to match. It can even show you how the clothes will fit to your preferences and style. (Loose, tight, baggy, etc.)
Because Tango phones can tell where they are in space, you can map entire environments. The Tango Constructor app lets you create 3D models of a space.
You map the room by waving your phone around. The sensors and cameras log everything in 3D space.
When you’re finished, you can pan around the room. You can even send the 3D model to a virtual reality headset.
Tango is cool, but still has a long way to go.
The ultimate vision for AR is to stuff it into a pair of computerized glasses and eventually replace your smartphone. You heard Facebook talk a lot about that a few weeks ago at its developers conference.
For now, AR is mostly stuck on the smartphone and will have limited use cases like education, gaming, or indoor mapping. Tango has partnered with Lowe’s hardware stores to map the locations of products for customers, for example.
Still, Google appears to be the furthest along when it comes to AR, and it’s only going to get bigger as Tango technology comes to more phones.
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