Google developing 3-D depth-sensing tablets...
Google Developing Tablet With Advanced Vision Capabilities
Tech Company Plans To Produce About 4,000 Prototype Tablets Beginning Next Month
By LORRAINE LUK in Hong Kong and ROLFE WINKLER in San Francisco CONNECT
May 22, 2014 10:02 p.m. ET
What will the next-generation Google tablet do? WSJ's Rolfe Winkler discusses the souped-up cameras and sensors expected from Google on the News Hub with Sara Murray.
Google Inc. is developing a new, cutting-edge tablet as it continues to experiment with advanced vision capabilities for mobile devices.
The company plans to produce about 4,000 of the prototype tablets beginning next month, according to people briefed on the company's plans. The device would come with a 7-inch screen and will be equipped with two back cameras, infrared depth sensors and advanced software that can capture precise three-dimensional images of objects, said these people.
The tablet is being developed as part of a Google research effort dubbed Project Tango, according to a person familiar with that effort, and could be released ahead of the company's annual developer conference scheduled for the end of June, said this person.
Run out of the company's Advanced Technology and Projects group, Project Tango released a prototype smartphone in February that is similarly packed with sensors and designed to create a kind of three-dimensional map of its user's surroundings.
The technology demonstrated in the smartphone could be used for improved indoor navigation for the visually-impaired, step-by-step directions within stores as well as for more immersive videogames, Google has said.
Rival Facebook Inc. is similarly jumping into advanced computer vision technology with its planned acquisition of Oculus VR, the maker of futuristic virtual reality headgear. Such technologies are far ahead of standard 3-D displays, which have been around for years, said Rajeev Chand, head of research at Rutberg & Co., an investment bank focused on the wireless and digital-media industries.
As with the smartphone released in February, Google initially plans to build a small quantity of the new tablets that it will furnish to developers.
"It is critical to open the new technology to developers first as the key is how you can translate the technology into practical applications," said Bryan Ma, an analyst at research firm IDC.
Indeed, the challenge for Google's new devices could be coming up with functions that are useful for consumers.
"The technology is ahead of the applications," said Mr. Chand, though he said he is optimistic that it will catch on given advances in image processing and the fact that tech companies like Google and Facebook are throwing their weight behind it.
Google prefers to let developers experiment with its more futuristic devices in the hope that they will create applications that will help the devices appeal to consumers. Besides Project Tango, there is also the company's Internet-connected eyewear, Google Glass, which was first unveiled in 2012 but had only been available to developers and early testers until recently.
The strategy stands in contrast to Apple, which prefers to develop devices in secrecy before staging massive consumer launches.
Write to Lorraine Luk at firstname.lastname@example.org and Rolfe Winkler at email@example.com
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