Google unveils Project Tango 3D Android smartphone

Google is offering developers the chance to test the limits of a prototype Android smartphone that can sense 3D motion and geometry.

The vendor said the technology could be used to produce indoor maps of buildings, as a navigational aid for the visually impaired, or help people find products in retail environments.

The search giant has made 200 prototype developer kits, and said it wants to give them away to people with an interest in "pushing the technology forward" and improving the device's user experience.

"We have allocated some of these devices [already] for projects in the areas of indoor navigation/mapping, single/multiplayer games that use physical space, and new algorithms for processing sensor data," the company stated.

The company said interested parties will need to set out their plans for the device, with Google encouraging them to "be creative. Be specific. Be bold". It also confirmed the prototype devices will be distributed to successful applicants by Friday 14 March.

The device is the result of Google's Project Tango initiative, which the company said has set out to give mobile devices a "human-scale understanding of space and motion".

The project has seen Google collaborate with universities, research labs and other tech firms in nine countries over the past 12 months.

"Project Tango is a focused exploration of what might be possible in a mobile platform. It is not part of Android today," a statement on the Project Tango website states.

"We are still in the early days as this technology begins the transition out of research labs into the hands of millions of people.

"While we may believe we know where this technology will take us, history suggests we should be humble in our predictions. We are excited to see the effort take shape with every step forward," it added.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.