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Google let iFixit open up one of its 200 prototypes of the Project Tango phone, an Android phone that uses highly-sensitive 3D motion-tracking and measurement to create automatic maps of interior locations.

The device is a really neat piece of kit, and Google believes that developers will find plenty of uses for it. For example, use the phone to scan the interior of your home before you go furniture shopping, and it will create an accurate 3D model of your home complete with measurements. Take the phone to the store with you to see exactly how furniture might fit … 

iFixit says that the device is “basically a camera and sensor array that happens to run on an Android phone.” The phone specs are impressive but in line with other high-end handsets: a Snapdragon 800 quad core (up to 2.3 GHz per core) CPU, 2GB RAM, 64GB storage (expandable by microSD), 5-inch screen.

The clever bit, though, is the depth-sensing array, which iFixit found comprised “an infrared projector, 4 MP rear-facing RGB/IR camera and 180º field of view fisheye rear-facing camera.”

fisheye

From the description, it seems that the projector transmits a grid of infra-red dots to illuminate the surroundings, which are detected by the matching infra-red camera. iFixit hypothesises that the system uses the size of the dots to determine the distance of the surface from the camera.

A combination of a 9-axis accelerometer/gyroscope/compass and images from the fisheye camera seen above are used to detect the motion of the device, enabling the infra-red data to be accurately plotted.

Interestingly, iFixit has since identified one of the chips as a Capri PS1200 SoC 3D imaging chip, made by a now Apple-owned company.

app

Just last year, Apple bought PrimeSense, manufacturer of the Kinect’s 3D vision hardware. Speculators assumed we would be seeing this hot new hardware in an upcoming iOS device, with intent of mapping 3D spaces. Looks like Tango beat Apple to the punch with their own tech?

Although iFixit suggests this might have been for a future iOS device, Apple is thought to be exploring a gesture-based user-interface for the long-rumored Apple television, and it’s more generally believed this was the most likely reason for the acquisition of PrimeSense.

More photos from the tear-down over at iFixit.

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