Would You Tango With Google? Perhaps Not

Published on 15 Jun, 2016

Google Tango Platform

Tango is being touted as an affordable Augmented Reality platform without having the clutter of the Cardboard or other headgears. However, Tango seems far from being a game changer for the way users may consume indoor navigation using AR on mobile devices.

Google Tango (running on Lenovo’s latest Phab2Pro) raised a fundamental question with its commercial launch recently – will it significantly influence the way an average user may deal with augmented reality? We believe, not really.

Tango is being touted as a leap in promising new frontier in augmented reality (AR) and is being dubbed as an affordable AR without the clutter of the Cardboard or other headgears. Lenovo’s Phab2Pro is smart enough to grasp your physical surroundings, such as the room’s size and the presence of other objects and create virtual maps which may potentially transform how we interact with physical objects in space and time. This could enhance our day to day experience in the e-commerce, education and gaming space.

In fact, several brands are eager to experiment with AR. For example, media reports suggest that Walmart and Tesco are creating virtual reality supermarket that one can wander in around using VR headgears such as Oculus Rift; or Marriot is intending to use it to showcase the sprawl of their properties.

However, as far as Tango and its avatar on Lenovo are considered, I believe Tango is pretty basic at the moment and has only marginally evolved over its earlier version for tablets. It’s still riddled with bugs related to image rendering, reflective subjects and structured light, virtual reality quality and resolution. Horizon re-localization, frequent camera crashes and device orientation capability are some of prominent bugs the platform suffers from.

In fact, its prolonged use may be an agonizing experience at start, and the form factor of the Lenovo Phab2Pro may not find a widespread adoption. Average users may not find it apt and useful enough.

Tango does prove that AR and VR as technologies may not have leapfrogged from their nascent stages when they were introduced a few years ago. Tango is far from being a game changer for the way users may consume indoor navigation using AR on mobile devices.

Ironically, Tango isn’t feeding into a much anticipated Google’s AR & VR project called Daydream. In fact, Google’s Daydream apps are slated to run only on newer Google-certified devices that need various VR-friendly components based on strict specifications. Only 6 manufactures have been appointed for its production. And, the list of approved manufacturers that will produce mobile devices to run the Daydream platform doesn’t include Lenovo, ironically.

The whole project suggests that Google would like to shape and drive all the parts of VR experience. And, there seems no play for Tango here.

Nevertheless, certain technology and telecom hardware manufacturers are indeed banking on Tango’s vision-based navigation capabilities to perform localization and navigation in the outer space. Google has partnered for this with the likes of Apelab, AutoDesk, Bosch, Dive, Infineon, JPL, Sagivtech, SideKick and Inuitive for the program.

Also, the partnership between Google and Qualcomm will see the chipmaker incorporate the technology into its smartphone reference designs which may interest its competitors and a few imaging (video card) manufacturers. Since the technology involves 3D sensing, it may provide a boost to commercial 3D printing.

Having said that, the technology platform may struggle to gain market acceptance. Limited apps and functionalities, and heavy dependence on developers hang its fate in limbo at present. It looks likely that Tango may have a slow start, similar to Curved OLED devices, VR headgears and Wearable devices showcased a few years ago at the CES. Fingers crossed.