As great as Google Maps is, if you need to be directed to somewhere _really _specific–as in, a specific room in a specific building on a specific street–it stumbles. Not too long ago, we predicted that crowdsourcing would bring mapping indoors, and go figure, Google is leading the charge: the tech giant has unveiled a prototype smartphone that uses sensors to constantly map the world around it, giving everyone (customers and Google) more detailed maps.
Called Project Tango, the prototype is a 5-inch Android phone that monitors its position and orientation as it travels in your pocket; after moving around enough, it develops a 3-D view of your world: your house, the coffee shop you visit, that one bar down the street. Google has 200 of the devices, and will start shipping them out to developers this month.
If you’re not concerned about the privacy issues that arise from having a self-surveiling, room-scanning machine on your person, this is a great idea: the next logical step for mapping is to direct people to ever-more precise places, and making it happen through existing tech like motion-tracking cameras and depth sensors is clever problem-solving. (If you _are _concerned about those issues, well, that’s another story.)
No word yet on when the phone might get into consumer hands, although between this and its modular smartphone concept, Project Ara, Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, responsible for both, has a lot on its hands.