Lenovo Phab 2 Pro will enable augmented reality (AR) experiences, and relies on a set of sensors and software to map its surroundings. Priced at $499, Phab 2 Pro will be going on sale in September globally.
Here’s a quick look at why this Project Tango-enabled smartphone is being seen as something exciting, and what it really offer.
Project Tango and what this is all about
For the uninitiated, Project Tango is Google’s technology to help mobile devices like tablets, smartphones figure out space and motion just like humans do and brings spatial perception to Android devices. There are quite a few Project Tango-enabled apps on the Google Play Store, but don’t be surprised if none of them of are compatible with your regular smartphones, tablets.
At CES 2016, Lenovo and Google first announced they were working together on a Project Tango smartphone. Google Project Tango Product lead Johnny Lee had then gone to showcase how the device can be used to accurately measure space, area, and even play an AR version of the Jenga game.
Google is also working with app developers to create more of these special apps for Project Tango devices.
So what are the specs for Phab 2 Pro?
Phab 2 Pro has a metal unibody design, and is 8.9mm in thickness. It has a 6.4-inch QHD (2,560 x 1,440) display, and is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 processor (Tango edition) with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage space.
Phab 2 Pro has a 16 megapixel rear camera on board with a special depth-sensing unit, along with multiple camera sensors, which power the augmented reality experience.
Phab 2 Pro comes with a fingerprint scanner on the back, a 4,050 mAh battery with 2.4 Turbo charging support. It will come in gold and grey colour options.
How does Phab 2 Pro work?
Lenovo Phab 2 Pro uses a variety of sensors to detect physical motion and space. It lets users interact with their surroundings and can size up the contours of rooms, and thus map building interiors. All of this is crucial to the augmented reality (AR) experience.
The smartphone primarily relies on three technologies to do this: motion tracking, depth perception and area learning.
According to Lenovo’s press statement, “Motion tracking lets PHAB2 Pro’s ‘eye’ see its own location in 3D. Area learning tells the smartphone its location. Depth perception lets the device analyze the shape of the world around it by detecting surfaces and obstacles.”
Using a combination of these technologies, Lenovo’s Phab 2 Pro will analyse and visualise its surrounding objects. Think about the Microsoft HoloLens projections, but just via your smartphone.
So what are the real world uses for a Lenovo Phab 2 Pro?
The Project Tango style functions of the smartphone will require special Tango ready apps, and Lenovo has listed a couple of these as well. For all the Tango-ready apps on Google Play Store, go here.
For starters, there’s a Home Improvement by Lowe’s, which will let users choose an item they wish to buy, and see whether it fits or looks good in the space of their home. Users can pick any piece of furniture on the app, view it through their phone. Relying on the sensors in the phone, the app will let you determine whether the table you are planning will actually fit in the space of your home or not.
Phantogeist App might remind users of the Microsoft HoloLens experience as it will create real-life projections or phantom-like creatures. This is a game by Trixi Studios. Raise App is another game by Iguanabee, where users can pick a pet from the 3D library and then ‘raise’ it as a pet.
Woorld App is for a learning experience, where users create a miniature virtual world inside their own home. Lenovo also says that students can place true-to-scale virtual dinosaurs in their classrooms via the device.
What does this whole AR experience mean?
There’s been a lot of talk of whether we have reached peak smartphone, and whether smartphones per se are starting to get boring. Phab 2 Pro and Project Tango prove there are still a lot more uses cases for smartphones to cover.
A commercially-ready Project Tango smartphone is a big deal. It pushes the boundaries of what a user can do with a phone, beyond the regular uses cases of just taking pictures or sharing videos on Facebook.
Smartphones with real-life 3D projections, that track motion, figure out the actual space, will drastically change the way we view these devices. Lenovo Phab 2 Pro could well take smartphone computing into the next era.
“Put simply, we wanted to take what was an amazing concept and transform it into a commercially viable mobile device. From the moment we saw Tango, we knew it could become pervasive, just like GPS,” said Jeff Meredith, vice president and general manager of Android and Chrome Computing, Lenovo during the launch.
Whether Phab 2 Pro and Project Tango makes AR go more mainstream, we’ll have to wait and find out.
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