Will Google’s Project Tango Be The Secret Weapon for Event Professionals?

Many people are aware of Google’s more “out there” experimental projects- from self-driving cars to Google Glass, from contact lenses that can measure blood sugar levels to hot air balloons that can deliver internet to remote locations, and everything in between.

Project Tango

But Google quietly announced this February a research project that could have a huge workflow impact on event professionals, should it ever come to market.

“A Device Unlike Any Other”

It’s called “Project Tango” and it’s coming out of the advanced research division that it acquired when it purchased the Motorola mobile devices division. According to the Tango website, “Project Tango is an attempt to create a mobile device unlike any other, a mobile device that shares our sense of space and movement, that understands and perceives the world the same way we do.” So that’s some great marketing speak, but what does it actually do?

It Takes Three to Tango

In addition to the things that you’d expect to find in a smartphone, such as GPS, compass, and an internal gyroscope, the Project Tango devices are Android phones that have been crammed with every other kind of environmental sensor you can imagine. The phone has not two, but three cameras. The front and rear cameras have ultra-wide angle lenses that allow them to take in as much data as possible in every shot. The third camera is a low resolution camera that exclusively deals with measuring depth.

The upshot is a device that is fully aware of it’s environment, and is capable of building a three dimensional map of that environment, including all height and depth measurements- and in very short order. How fast? According to Google, the devices’s sensors are pulling in over a quarter of a million 3D measurements every second, “updating its position and orientation in real-time, combining that data into a single 3D model of the space around you.”

Early prototypes of the device have only been given to a select group of researchers and developers, but proof of concept videos have already been produced showing the 3D mapping in action:

Can’t see link? Click Here.

Visit Once, Measure as Much as You Like

The immediate uses for such capabilities should be obvious to any event professional that has ever been on a site visit. Imagine showing up at a new venue and within minutes having a fully three dimensional, 360 degree view of the venue, including all heights and floor measurements.

Want to know if that giant Martini Luge the client wants will fit under the cove lighting in the corner of the room? Pop open your 3D map of the room and measure it to find out. After all, how many times have you needed the one measurement you didn’t think to grab when you were on site, or didn’t in your wildest dreams think would be relevant?

Is That a Power Outlet or a Sconce?

For those dealing with AV, imagine not having to rely on blueprints or CAD drawings that may or may not be accurate. Are those rigging points in the ceiling or are they audio speakers? Imagine not guessing where those wall sconces are, or how low those chandeliers are hanging.

Want to see where the power outlets are in the room? Just take a virtual “walk around” the perimeter of the room and look for yourself! Want to make sure the camera will have a clear view of the stage? Just put your virtual self at the right hight and take a look.

“I don’t know- that sounds like a weird space.”

For venues, this technology could also be a boon. Much more than a panoramic image, you’d be able to show a potential client a full virtual walkthrough of the space, including different table setups setups (classroom vs rounds), stage configurations, centerpiece options, linens, and chair covers. This could be especially handy for more unique or unusual spaces and venues that might not translate well into pictures or videos.

We all know those kinds of venues- that you almost have to see to believe before you can even visualize having your event there. Being able to quickly and easily make 3D walkthroughs might make the sell go a little easier, or at least get the potential client in the door to see for themselves.

From Fooling Around to Getting Around

Google has even loftier goals in mind for Project Tango, many of which also have meeting and event applications. “What if you could walk into a store and see exactly where that thing you need to buy is,” (think trade show maps- where’s that booth again?) “or play hide-and-seek in your home with that character from your favorite game,” (gamification, anyone?) “or help the visually-impaired navigate that place they have never been able to go to on their own?”.

I think we’d all agree that meetings and events could stand to be a lot more friendly to the visually impaired. I can’t even imagine getting around most conferences and trade shows if I couldn’t see.

Less is More

Now, I’m not the type of techno-evangelist that’s going to say that this type of 3D mapping is going to replace the site visit. Much like how most of us in the industry still believe in face to face meetings, it’s going to be a long time before a virtual walk-through will come close to replacing an in-person one, but at the very least it might reduce the number of trips required, or the number of people required for the site visit.

Even reducing that number by one in either case could have a huge impact on cost, not to mention the environmental ramifications of reducing air travel.

In Conclusion

No word yet on when Project Tango might be released. The site refers to it as “early days” and “rough around the edges”, but also implies a mass market release at some point as “this technology starts to transition out of the research labs and into the hands of millions of people.” If I had to wager a guess it’d be 2015 at the earliest.

I, for one, can’t wait to get my hands on this type of tech, which for me would be more immediately “out of the box” useful than something like Google Glass. Whether it’s a month from now or next year, either way I think I agree with Google- “The Future is Awesome.”

This is a guest post by Brandt Krueger. Brandt is the Director of Video and Production Technology for metroConnections– a complete conference, meeting, event, and transportation company. He also co-hosts the weekly industry podcast, the Event Alley Show.

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