Google-Lenovo phablet in Project-Tango weirdness; puzzles CES attendees

Johnny Lee’s interesting augmented-reality thingamajig—info still thin on the ground, though

Lenovo and Google preview their AR smartphone—it’s the first product of Motorola’s Project Tango doo-hicky. The two companies seem to love this augmented-reality technology, but they’re frankly doing a terrible job of persuading us we want it.

But hey, you can use it to play games, get directions, and measure things. Which is wonderful I’m sure.

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers struggle to get it. Yes, Project Tango needs better demos—so how about playing hopscotch with a pebble on Mars?..

Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.
[Developing story: Updated 6:49 am, 10:42 am and 4:24 am PST with more comment]

Here’s some odd news out of CES. Romain “Caesar” Dillet writes Lenovo Is Making The First Google Project Tango Phone:

Lenovo announced at CES that [it] would be producing the first Project Tango phone.

Lenovo is going to release a phone that is going to cost less than $500...this Summer.

Project Tango is still a brand new thing [that] Google is probably not going to roll millions of Android phones just yet.

Yes, but what is it? Dean Takahashi was there too—Google teams up with Lenovo on smartphone with Project Tango’s augmented reality:

[The] new smartphone [will have] a 3D augmented reality technology known as Project Tango.

Johnny Lee, a member of the Tango team at Google...did a demo in which he used Tango’s sensors to measure the exact height of a wall inside a room...where the press event was held.

Lowes is working on an augmented reality ecommerce app [where] the user can figure out if a refrigerator would fit in his or her kitchen.

[Google’s] Larry Yang...showed me a game that uses Tango, and it was like stepping into a future where games, 3D-sensing, motion-sensing, cameras, and animated overlays all combine into an...augmented reality experience.

Tango devices can use visual cues to help recognize the world around them. They can self-correct errors in motion tracking and become reoriented in areas they’ve seen before.

Got an idea for an app? Google’s Johnny Lee offers to Get your app featured on the first smartphone with Project Tango from Lenovo:

By adding a few extra sensors and some computer vision software, [it] transforms your smartphone into a magic lens that lets you place digital information on your physical world.

We’re...inviting developers from around the world to submit their ideas for...apps created using Project Tango [to] be featured on Lenovo’s upcoming device. The submission period closes on February 15.

For some inspiration...Schell Games let’s you play virtual Jenga on any surface with friends.

OK, but where’s the beef? A frustrated-sounding Avram Piltch doesn’t know, either—Lenovo Unveils First Project Tango Phone, Coming This Summer:

Lenovo Exec Jeff Meredith offered few tangible details about the upcoming product. It still has no name, no photos and no list of specs. [He] showed slides with a few different designs. ... However, these were very vague pictures of...handsets [in] gray or silver.

Lee...launched an app that displays a virtual dog or cat on top of your real-world room.

[But] many of the capabilities Google and Lenovo touted [are already] available in one form or another. [The] Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet had an Intel RealSense 3D camera which gave it the ability to measure objects. ... However, in our tests, the dimensions were often wildly inaccurate.

There's nothing new at all about manipulating virtual objects on top of a real-world view.

Ouch, was that too harsh? Roger Cheng takes a rest from baiting BB10 fanbois, with Two to Tango: Google, Lenovo partner to build location-aware phone:

While mapping companies have plotted the outside world with remarkable accuracy, there are few aids to navigate you once you're inside a mall, large hotel, or a crazy-large consumer electronics show.

[It] would employ three cameras -- one to distinguish colors, a depth lens and a fish-eye lens -- to get a sense of the space around them.

Meanwhile, Elihu Root pokes fun at the idea:

How did we survive all these years without a device that could tell us if a piece of furniture was the right size?

This seems over-engineered. Perhaps something simpler might work — a stick of some sort, say, with markings at regular increments?

Update 1: He told you so! Mike Elgan describes How Google's Project Tango will change your life:

I love moments like these -- a fundamental technology is poised to change what people do every day.

Tango is actually part of Google's...ATAP group, which...Google bought as part of...Motorola [but] didn't include as part of to Lenovo.

Lenovo now owns Motorola, which is the company that started the...project. It's possible that Motorola [has] been working on Tango integration for years.

Watch this space for future details about how Tango will watch your space.

Update 2: And the cynical reactions keep coming. Here’s a classic, from :

This should be awesome, Lenovo and Google, two companies I totally trust with my privacy and security.

No, wait. ... Lenovo who installs spyware and Google who wants to monetize every fact about you, tied in with whatever other ad and anlaytics they can jam into this.

Hell to the no.

Update 3: We need more demos, darnit. Mario Aguilar obliges, in Getting Weird With Google's Project Tango Tech:

[It] allow you to do perform augmented reality applications. ... Which sounds cool… but is also ambiguous to the point of being meaningless.

In one demo, [it] places a little pet into your world. This pet really likes you and wants to follow you around. ... You can place a cute pet on someone’s lap and pretend to pet it. ... This is actually kind of weird.

It’s impressive how much the real-time processing has evolved. [But] it’s not quite the seamless convince ordinary humans that it’s something they want.

We need better experiences—not just demos. [But] they’ve got time left to get it right. We have a lot to look forward to.

Yes, Project Tango needs better demos...

Johnny Lee helps you play hopscotch with a pebble on Mars

You have been reading IT Blogwatch by Richi Jennings, who curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don’t have to. Catch the key commentary from around the Web every morning. Hatemail may be directed to @RiCHi or
Opinions expressed may not represent those of Computerworld. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

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