Peter Bromhead: Dancing around technology

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Project Tango is still in early development by Google. Illustration / Peter Bromhead
Project Tango is still in early development by Google. Illustration / Peter Bromhead

"How would you like to work on an exciting new mobile application?" asked a computer developer recently.

As usual with anything to do with cyber technology, I reacted warily, by placing a plastic Lego question mark, borrowed from my child's toybox, on the cafe table.

"Explain," I murmured, moving the plastic icon towards my friend's coffee cup.

"Do you believe the future is awesome?" posed my companion, reversing the question mark.

This is a somewhat nonsensical question to put to an octogenarian, but I tried half-heartedly to pretend that, yes, "I believe the future is awesome."

"Great," he muttered, adding "then you'll want to join me on Project Tango."

"Project Tango?" I responded quizzically.

"Imagine having a phone containing hardware that could create a map of the environment around you. A device that could make more than a quarter of a million 3D measurements every second, a phone that constantly updates its position and orientation in real time, combining all the data into a single 3D model of space around you."

Turning the Lego question mark back towards my friend, I asked, "what's the point?"

"Imagine owning a device," he enthused, "that could transfer your home's hallway into a tree-lined path, or gave you the ability to hide secret virtual treasure in physical places around the world."

"Surely," I queried, "if this whizz-bang phone is in my trouser pocket, it'll only be able to take 3D measurements of my trouser contents?"

My computer friend was unclear about this technicality.

He then explained that Project Tango was still in early development by Google. Apparently it has dreamed up an Android mobile unit that senses 3D motion and geometry, and now wants to give out 200 prototype devices to professional developers worldwide, hoping they will assist by creating bold new applications that use this mobile's new 3D technology.

"I thought," my buddy explained, "that we could revisit your mini-cartoon movies you developed for cellphones. Imagine creating cartoon characters on your mobile that appear to run around one's own house."

"You mean a bit like those demons that appear when I've drunk too much?" I replied.

Ignoring my comment, he asked impatiently, "so, Pete, are you in or out?"

I agreed to go cautiously forward with the project, providing I don't have to carry the device in my trouser pockets.

At my age, I don't need the world knowing the precise measurements of anything in that region any more.

- NZ Herald

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