Google’s Project Tango, the company’s depth-sensing tech capable of mapping a room in 3D, is getting a serious boost in the form of a partnership with chipmaker Qualcomm. According to Ars Technica, the two companies have collaborated on augmented reality architecture that will make its debut on Lenovo’s upcoming Phab2 Pro.
Prototypical Project Tango devices packed a specialized chip from vision-processing company Movidus that handled most of Tango’s heavy software lifting. Now Qualcomm, with the help of Google, has adapted the underlying tech to much of its existing upcoming Snapdragon 600 and 800 processors.
Using a technique the company calls “Snapdragon Heterogeneous Processing Architecture,” smartphones packing the appropriate silicon commandeer various co-processors — the image signal processor (ISP) responsible for interpreting camera snaps, for example, and the digital signal processor responsible (DSP) usually charged with listening for Google Now commands — for use in Tango applications.
In other words, the smartphone’s primary processor taps into the handset’s (frequently idle) specialized hardware for a temporary processing boost, and the results speak for themselves: According to Qualcomm, Tango’s overhead is “less than 10 percent.”
Better yet, Qualcomm’s heterogeneous processing doesn’t require any proprietary components. It’ll work on any phone with a DSP, ISP, and other co-processors like the sensor hub in Huawei’s Nexus 6P. And that was the plan all along — Ars Technica reports that Qualcomm’s been “working closely” with Google’s Tango team for the better part of a year on bringing backwards-compatible heterogeneous computing to the manufacturer’s silicon lineup. Short of the depth sensor and motion-tracking camera that Tango requires, there is nothing technical preventing, say, an old Moto X from running Google’s AR applications just as efficiently.
“We’ve been talking about heterogeneous computing for a long time, and Project Tango represents one of the best use cases so far,” a Qualcomm representative told Digital Trends. “We expect to see broad adoption of the technology in the future.”
The Phab2 Pro, which packs Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 652 processor and retails in September for $499, is the first step toward Google’s larger AR and virtual reality ambitions. In May, Bloomberg reported that the company hoped to recruit grocery chains, museums, and game developers to produce interior building maps and games with Tango tech. And at its I/O developer conference in June, Google announced Daydream, an initiative aimed at bringing high-quality VR experiences to smartphones.