Capturing the World in 3D: Amazon’s Omron powered Smartphone and Google’s Project Tango…

Creating a detailed 3D map of the world around you has until now required expensive Ladar equipment, effective but not cheap. Technology leaving the labs at the moment will soon build this ability into every mobile device, making machines aware of their surroundings.

Tech giants Amazon and Google are working to integrate this new kind of smarts into our phones and tablets. Both leveraging multiple cameras and algorithmic smarts to build 3D wire models that map the world around you. Amazon will use this to create a new type of facial recognition interface while Google is looking for developers to join in on their journey of discovery.

Amazon Smartphone
Amazon Smartphone

Amazon’s soon to be released and much hyped smartphone will have some very special abilities thanks to Omron’s Okao Vision technology. Rumour has it that on June 18 they will release a smartphone that integrates facial recognition.

According to TechCrunch the Amazon branded phone will integrate Omron’s multiple camera setup, required to generate the 3D model. Amazon will use the technology to track the phone user, controlling various aspects of the interface with the nod of your head. How much further the technology can be taken is unknown, we will have to wait for the announcement later this week to find out. Maybe it will eventually be able to detect if someone is giving you the bunnies ears in a photo?

Tango Devkit
Tango Devkit

Project Tango is under development by Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) lab. In recent months the lab has made the developer’s kit available to all interested in writing 3D aware applications. The dev kits costs a grand but includes a 7inch tablet with all of the required sensors and cameras in place. Developers can code in Java or C/C++ using the Unity Engine or Eclipse.

The current generation Tango hardware is based on Movidius’ Myriad 1 vision processing platform. The Myriad 1 uses multiple cameras to scan the environment; a video camera, depth sensor and motion tracking camera. The hardware is able to project an infrared grid onto the environment and capture that grid using a specially timed camera sensor, this is then analysed and turned into a 3D map. This process is carried out many times a second to produce a high resolution 3D model of everything in the scene.

Amazon and Google are just beginning their journeys of discovery. Just as GPS has changed our lives in unexpected ways 3D mapping will present surprises. Could we soon be scanning rooms before going furniture shopping, enjoying augmented reality gaming everywhere, will the visually impaired have a new guide dog or will it lead to a new way to find out where you are?

Smartphones seem to become more intelligent every day, now that they are becoming aware of their surroundings how long will it be before they also become self aware?!

Reference: Google Project Tango
Reference: Omron