NEW YORK—Lenovo today announced the first consumer Project Tango phone, the "Phab 2 Pro." Lenovo describes the phone as a "team effort" with Google, which created the Project Tango technology. Project Tango is also undergoing a bit of a rebranding. It's just "Tango" now—no "Project"—and it has a new logo.
Project Tango started around three years ago as a project inside of ATAP, Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group. The skunkworks team created prototype mobile devices with computer ?vision sensors—imagine an Xbox Kinect crammed into the back of a smartphone. Sensors allow the device to create a 3D point cloud of its surroundings and know where it is in 3D space. This system can be combined with a live camera feed for various augmented reality uses, or it can be used to track your precise indoor location for mapping purposes.
Take away all the fancy 3D sensors, and Project Tango is an Android phone. The developer kit was an Android tablet, and cramming everything down to a "phone" size device meant going with a very large body. The Phab 2 Pro has a massive 6.4-inch 1440p display built into a metal unibody. The device is also backing a pretty large battery: 4050 mAh.
The 3D sensing means there's a ton of extra cameras. There's the usual 8MP front camera and 16MP rear camera, but Tango also has a depth camera and motion tracking camera on the back. The device supposedly has "killer sound," too, with Dolby Atmos sound processing and Dolby 5.1 audio capture. Lenovo didn't go too in-depth about the tech specs, but the company did mention the device is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652.
The big questions for Project Tango will involve the battery life of the device and whether a decent selection of apps actually takes advantage of the extra sensors. Developer kits have existed since 2014, but it's unclear what the developer uptake is like.
Tango is all about "motion tracking, depth perception, and area learning." Today, the group showed off a number of demos for Tango. There was a "toy box" ?app that could place virtual dominoes or other toys on real-life objects, which you could then interact with. Another demo turned the entire area into a cartoony forest, with animals running around while users controlled the "camera" by moving around the room.
One of the more interesting uses was as a measuring tape. The 3D sensing is so precise that it allows you to pick two points on a plane, and it will give you a readout in centimeters. You can make and save 3D volumetric measurements, which is a feature we haven't seen in a smartphone before. Lowe's is taking full advantage of these 3D measurement capabilities with a home makeover and shopping app. After you let the phone scan and measure your house, you see how various virtual Lowe's products will fit in your available space. The Phab 2 Pro will be out in September 2016 for $499 unlocked. It will be sold in Best Buy and, surprisingly, Lowe's. Lowe's is apparently so fond of the app that it's going to pitch the device in its stores.
Update: A real spec list has arrived. The Snapdragon 652 is "Built for Tango," (whatever that means) and it has 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, a combo MicroSD/SIM slot for either more storage or dual SIM action, and runs Android 6.0. Dimensions are a whopping 179.83 mm × 88.57mm × 10.7mm (7.08 in × 3.49 in × 0.42 in), and it weighs 259g (9.14oz).