Google and Lenovo Group Ltd (聯想) on Thursday said they would team up to produce the first smartphone using three-dimensional mapping developed for the US tech giant’s “Project Tango.”
The partnership announced on the sidelines of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is to produce the first consumer device using the technology — which aims to create a new generation of smart devices that can be used for indoor mapping, augmented reality and more.
The companies said the device — which was not displayed — would be a large-screen smartphone with a display of about 6 inches and cost less than US$500.
The Tango smartphone, set for worldwide release in the middle of this year, would also mark the first major entry into the US smartphone market for the Chinese electronics giant.
“This was not designed as a niche device,” Lenovo vice president Jeff Meredith said. “We want this to be accessible to a large audience.”
Google announced its research project in 2014 aimed at broadening the potential for smartphone technology in a three-dimensional world.
However, until now, the only device using Tango was a bulky tablet made by Google for developers.
Project Tango lead Johnny Lee, who participated in the Las Vegas announcement, said the technology “transforms the smartphone into a magical window on the world.”
Lee said it could help consumers find their way in a large hotel or mall, or take precise measurements of a room before shopping for furnishings. He showed how to get instant measurements of ceiling height, square footage and more, and then tested how certain furniture pieces would look in a room.
Project Tango uses depth sensing and motion tracking to create on-screen 3D experiences, allowing users to get a better picture of a physical environment.
“There is much more in the space around us than we can see with our eyes,” Lee said.
Unlike GPS, Project Tango motion tracking works indoors, allowing users to navigate in a shopping mall, or even find a specific item in a store.
Meredith said Lenovo was still testing several designs for the device, but would “definitely” launch in the middle of this year.
The companies also announced an “app incubator program” to encourage developers to produce new applications for the ecosystem.
Separately, Lenovo expects demand for its smartphones in Brazil and India to help make up for a slowdown in China and deliver profits in a few quarters, chairman and CEO Yang Yuanqing (楊元慶) said.
The manufacturer’s US$2.9 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility Group from Google in 2014 is giving the world’s third-largest smartphone maker access to higher-growth markets as the pace of adoption in China grinds to a halt. After almost doubling between 2008 and 2013, China’s market is to expand less than 1 percent in the next five years, according to market researcher International Data Corp.
“Brazil’s economy is not doing good, but we’re still gaining share in the market,” Yang said in an interview on Thursday at the trade show in Las Vegas. “Moto products are very competitive; we only need to improve the cost efficiency.”
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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