December 18, 2017 // 11:07 a.m.
Google has officially dropped its Project Tango augmented reality platform, announcing that it will be concentrating on its new ARCore platform exclusively from now on - leaving those eager to see the Tango technology hit the mainstream disappointed.
First announced back in February 2014 as a prototype smartphone, Project Tango combined a depth-sensing camera based on similar technology to Microsoft's Kinect platform - itself built on a system designed by PrimeSense, acquired by Apple in 2013 - with a vision processing unit (VPU) from Intel subsidiary Movidius. The result: A standard-looking smartphone capable of recording depth data from its surroundings at a rate of 250,000 samples per second without draining the battery, mapping its environment in full 3D.
Google was bullish about potential applications for Project Tango, promising the system would be useful for everything from augmented reality gaming - a major part of its original demonstration platform - through to indoor mapping and measurement, GPS-style indoor navigation, and assistance technology for the partially sighted.
Sadly, the road to commercialisation proved less than smooth. The Project Tango smartphone was never available commercially, and the 'Yellowstone' tablet follow-up was sold exclusively to developers. In early 2016 Lenovo announced the Phab 2 Pro smartphone would include Project Tango capabilities but sales were poor when the device eventually launched at the end of that year, and Asus' rival ZenFone AR did barely any better.
Launched back in August, Google's ARCore software development kit (SDK) - which, unlike Project Tango, requires no special hardware, using only the camera and inertial measurement unit (IMU) common to most high-end smartphones and tablets - has now become Project Tango's replacement. 'As we focus on bringing augmented reality to the entire Android ecosystem with ARCore, we’re turning down support of Tango,' Google's Nikhil Chandhok states as part of the launch of ARCore Developer Preview 2. 'Thank you to our incredible community of developers who made such progress with Tango over the last three years. We look forward to continuing the journey with you on ARCore.'
Neither Lenovo nor Asus have announced what the cessation of Project Tango's development will mean for those few people who picked up their respective Tango-equipped handsets.