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article imageLenovo's Phab 2 Pro scans space around it to power AR experiences

By James Walker     Jun 10, 2016 in Technology
After three years of development, the first phone to use Google's Project Tango has been launched. The Lenovo Phab 2 Pro is able to understand physical space and motion in the same way people do, letting your phone sense space around it.
The Phab 2 Pro is one of a trio of new phones branded Phab 2 that Lenovo announced yesterday. The Phab 2 and Phab 2 Plus are gargantuan 6.4-inch phablets that represent upgraded models of last year's Phab. The Phab 2 Pro adds something a little more significant though, Google's Project Tango.
Project Tango, now known solely as "Tango," is an augmented reality technology that allows a phone to work out where it is in a space. It can map out the room it is in, track 3D objects and power augmented reality app experiences.
Google has high hopes for Tango. In a series of videos, it showed how the technology can guide people around a museum, overlay navigation directions on the street ahead of you, project a solar system into your room or give you a set of virtual dominos on your table.
Lenovo Phab 2 Pro with Google Tango augmented reality technology
Lenovo Phab 2 Pro with Google Tango augmented reality technology
A depth-sensing camera on the rear of the phone maps out the space around it in 3D. The data is fed into augmented reality apps which can then position virtual objects in the space. The complex camera gear makes over 250,000 measurements every second so it can create an accurate representation of the environment around you.
Besides new kinds of augmented reality apps, Tango can give your phone more functionality. You can ask questions like "Will this couch actually fit in my apartment?" and get a response, followed by an image of the couch in the space you're looking at. Saying "Where's the nearest building exit?" will immediately guide you towards it, helping if you're lost or there's an emergency.
Lenovo Phab 2 Pro with Google Tango augmented reality technology
Lenovo Phab 2 Pro with Google Tango augmented reality technology
"Tango helps you answer a new set of questions about your world through specialized hardware and apps," said Google in a blog post. "Some of the coolest apps that work with Tango are the ones that overlay digital objects on top of your surroundings. For example if you're shopping for a new bed, Tango lets you view your bedroom through your phone and visualize different options - even walk around the virtual furniture like it's actually there."
For Lenovo, Tango is a way for its smartphones to stand out from the crowd. "Put simply, we wanted to take what was an amazing concept and transform it into a commercially viable mobile deice," said Jeff Meredith, vice president and general manager of Android and Chrome Computing at Lenovo. "From the moment we saw Tango, we knew it could become pervasive, just like GPS."
The Phab 2 Pro isn't just about Tango though. It sports a 6.4-inch QHD display, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 652 processor, Dolby 5.1-channel surround sound capturing, 4GB of RAM, a fingerprint scanner and a very large 4,000mAh battery. When it's not being used to power Tango, the main camera can capture 16MP photos.
Lenovo Phab 2 Pro with Google Tango augmented reality technology  pictured here using WayfairView
Lenovo Phab 2 Pro with Google Tango augmented reality technology, pictured here using WayfairView
The phone will retail unlocked for $499, a relatively low cost for something debuting an entirely new technology. It will be available globally from September. At launch, there'll be around 25 apps supporting Tango but more than 100 should be available before the end of the year.
Tango has developed quickly from a prototype technology with little functional merit to something Lenovo sees as a way to differentiate phones. It has even won commercial favour: U.S. home improvement Store Lowe's will be using the Phab 2 Pro to demonstrate different furniture options to customers. It'll also be an official retail partner for the handset.
More about Google, Lenovo, google tango, project tango, Smartphones
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