Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) said that LG will begin selling a tablet next year that makes use of technology Google is developing in its Project Tango initiative, which promises to use mobile devices to quickly and easily make a 3D map of an indoor space. During its I/O developer conference, Google also offered a closer look at another of its high-concept smartphone efforts, Project Ara, which hopes to build modular smartphones. That project, however, is still clearly far from a commercial reality.
Both Project Ara and Tango are part of Google's Advanced Technology and Projects, or ATAP, which is tasked with pushing innovative design initiatives, or "moonshot" projects. Google previously announced both its Project Tango and Ara programs, but during its I/O conference this week the company provided details and insights into its progress.
Watch Google's Project Tango and Ara demonstrations at its I/O conference.
With Tango, Google's Johnny Lee offered a demonstration of the technology that involved mapping a building in full 3D detail, which would allow users to create 3D representations of their homes or businesses to quickly and easily create a 3D walkthrough of their stores. According to reports of the presentation, Lee said developers would be able to purchase a Tango developer tablet for $1,024 later this year, and he said Google is teaming with LG to release a consumer version of the tablet at some point next year.
As for Project Ara, Google's Paul Eremenko showed off an almost-working prototype modular phone during the I/O conference. Eremenko attempted to boot up the device but, according to Re/code, only part of the device's homescreen clock was visible. Nonetheless, the company touted the event as a successful milestone; Eremenko said that only a few weeks ago the device was "tethered to a laboratory bench," according to Re/code.
Google executives didn't offer any timeline for a commercial release of an Ara phone, but the potential of the technology is significant. According to Ars Technica, Ara uses the UniPro and M-PHY standards to connect phone components like a screen and a processor to a phone's "endoskeleton," while electro-permanent magnets hold it together. Such technology would allow users to essentially build their own device with the components--screen, processor and camera--that they want, and then swap out the components that break or fail.
Ars Technica noted that Eremenko ended his Ara presentation by offering $100,000 to any developer who could build a working Ara module that did "something that current smartphones can't do."
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