Google has been talking about its Tango augmented reality initiative since last year, but it’s finally happening: The first Tango smartphone is now available.
Actually, Google has been working to bring AR to Android for over three years, according to the firm. And kudos to Google for simply using the codename for the final product: Tango was ushered to production under the codename—wait for it—Project Tango.
In any event, Google announced back in June that the first Tango-powered Android smartphone, the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, would ship in September. They just missed that date, but the wait is finally over.
Like the Windows Holographic technologies that power Microsoft’s HoloLens headset, Tango seeks to provide a mixed reality experience in which the real world is mixed with virtual objects. But by doing so on a smartphone screen, Google can eliminate the complexity, cost, and physical space limitations of HoloLens, not to mention the confusion caused by that device’s limited field of view. To be fair, a smartphone’s screen is no more or less limited, from a field of view perspective, than HoloLens. It’s just that this limitation is expected and familiar with a phone.
I’ve not used Tango, so I’m not sure if it captures the essential magic of HoloLens, where virtual objects are believably rooted in the real world and thus appear to be “real” to the user. But in looking over the technology’s website, it’s pretty clear that Google is aiming it at the same general target as HoloLens, and is offering a mix of productivity, education, and entertainment solutions that are built on Tango. There’s even a Lowe’s app, a nice shot at Microsoft.
As for the Phab 2 Pro itself, it’s a big phone, with a 6.4-inch 1440p screen, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 processor (which is apparently optimized for Tango), 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, and 16/8 MP cameras. It’s got a huge battery, and is available in both Champagne Gold and Gunmetal Grey. It costs $500.