Lenovo’s Phab 2 Pro is a remarkable — if flawed — smartphone. It’s one of the largest phones we’ve ever seen, for starters, measuring more than 6 inches across. And it’s one of the world’s first to ship with Google Tango’s augmented reality sensors on board, meaning it can can track objects in three-dimensional space, react to movements, recognize objects (tablets, chairs, walls, and windows, etc.), and capture the dimensions of a room. It’s a cool capability of which few apps took advantage, but lucky for the Phab 2 Pro, Tango’s AR app library is about grow.
“Studios around the world are using the Phab 2 Pro as a working model to develop innovative Tango apps,” Lenovo wrote in a press release. “As a result, the Phab 2 Pro will be delivering on the original Tango experience on a number of new apps, which have introduced unique AR and VR experiences to the phones of new Tango users.”
The first out of the gate, iStaging, is an interior design app. Much like the Lowe’s title Wayfair, which lets users place actual-size furniture and home furnishings among — and atop — real-world surroundings and view them from every angle, iStaging provides a robust set of tools for budding interior designers. Users can walk around virtual furnishings, floor tiles, wallpaper, and other decor as if it were actually there, and map real-world objects with virtual measuring tools. They can capture pictures of their designs for posterity, too, and even purchase the items in question (initially from brands like HomePlaneur, Pixers, Arredoclassic, and Hola) straight from the app.
It isn’t the only home design app in town. Matterport, another newcomer, lets users capture a 3D model of their surrounding environment for future reference. Built-in, point-to-point measuring tools make measuring from any dimension possible, and 3D trim allows user to crop objects of interest. Sensopia’s MagicPlan, meanwhile, creates real-world floor plans with objects, annotations, and attributes.
There’s more to Tango than pure utility, though. A slightly more whimsical new app, Angstrom Tech’s Solar Simulator at Scale, has users place a virtual sun and Neptune into a surrounding real-world environment — i.e., a hallway. The result is a solar system — replete with Earth, Saturn, and every planet in between — that automatically scales to fit the size of the room.
Holo, meanwhile, projects “holograms” of celebrities, fictional characters, athletes, musical artists, and animals onto real-world tables, chairs, and floors. They’re available in “holopacks” that comprise a number of animations and recorded dialogue. Once placed into the environment, they can be resized, rotated, and moved around, and the result can be exported as a shareable photo or video.
Say what you will about Lenovo’s Phab 2 Pro, but it’s all good news for the longevity of Project Tango — and even better news might be just around the corner. Rumor has it that Asus will unveil a Tango-capable smartphone, the Asus Zenfone AR, during CES. Separately, Motorola CEO Aymar de Lencquesaing mentioned that the Moto Z, a smartphone with magnetic hardware modules that add new cameras, speakers, and other sensors, will get a peripheral with Tango functionality.