Google has recently announced that they are officially shutting down their first AR project, Tango on 1st March 2018. It will be added to the list of neglected Google ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) endeavours, which once comprised of Project Ara (Google’s attempt to build a modular smartphone) and Project Vault (Google’s attempt to put secure computing platforms entirely into an SD card).
Tango: Google’s First AR Project
Introduced in 2014, Tango was Google’s early efforts to bring augmented reality (AR) to phones. It solved the problem of position tracking with the help of extra hardware (like an IR projector, a fish-eye motion sensor and a time-0f-flight camera), but never panned out. The need for specific hardware made Tango compatible devices highly expensive, limiting it to only two devices officially: the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and the Asus ZenFone AR.
The Lenovo Phab 2 was slow, had poor battery life, and was sold at hardware stores like Lowe’s, instead of conventional channels like wireless carriers. Not many people bought the device. In the absence of significant user base for supporting AR app development, the platform came to a halt. The Asus ZenFone upgraded their hardware a bit, but by then the platform seemed to be lost its charm in the market. Only a few Tango apps came into practice; that also faced issues with accuracy and calibration.
In the meanwhile, Google introduced a new AR system, called ARCore to the Pixel and Pixel 2 smartphones in the form of AR stickers. It can’t see in 3D but has attained much of the same positional tracking as Tango had, and that also without the involvement of highly-specific hardware. Right now, the framework is available on Google’s Pixel smartphones and Galaxy S8, but will soon be compatible with Samsung, Huawei, LG, and Asus. It is expected that ARCore will have access to 100 million phone users, more than Tango have reached throughout its lifetime. Keeping these numbers and increasing competition in the market of AR technology, Google has finally decided to shut down the Project Tango by March 1st, 2018 and completely focus on ARCore.
We’re turning down support for Tango on March 1, 2018. Thank you to our incredible community of developers who made such progress with Tango over the last three years. We look forward to continuing the journey with you on ARCore. https://t.co/aYiSUkgyie
— Tango (@projecttango) December 15, 2017
What would be its impact?
While it might seem like an ill-fated move for users who have bought the Asus ZenFone AR, Tango’s retirement will not affect the experience of Tango-enabled device users. Google has declared that they have incorporated the Tango’s underlying technique into ARCore, which means all can enjoy similar AR experience even in the absence of particular hardware. In a nutshell, shutting down of Project Tango will not affect the AR experience of the device users.