Google's Tango augmented reality platform currently runs on just a single consumer device, the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, but its availability could soon skyrocket thanks to today's announcement that Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon processors support Tango.
Qualcomm has upgraded its flagship smartphone chip, the Snapdragon 820, with software optimizations that will meet Tango's processing demands without a drastic battery life decrease. Among those demands are interpreting data from a bevy of sensors, including a gyroscope, an accelerometer, a fisheye motion tracking camera, and a depth sensor camera.
Qualcomm says that future 820-based devices should be able to run Tango without requiring substantial hardware modifications or software development. In a sign that it is committed to the AR platform, it also plans to support Tango on future Snapdragon 600 and 800 tier processors.
Ars Technica reports that Qualcomm has been "working closely" with the Google Tango team for the last year and a half to get Tango up and running on Snapdragon.
It's a necessary step for Google, which has already committed considerable resources to building its virtual reality and augmented reality platforms. Tango-enabled devices like the Phab2 Pro can sense physical motion and space, track depth, and visualize and understand surrounding objects. With a wide-angle, sensor-equipped fish-eye camera, Tango can understand motion and identify where it is within a 3D space. This kind of positional tracking allows you to use AR for everything from interior design to games to museum tours.
The Phab 2 Pro runs a customized version of the Snapdragon 652, still a powerful processor, but not one that typically shows up in the latest-gen devices. The Snapdragon 820, meanwhile, is manufactured by Samsung and powers high-end phones and tablets like the Korean giant's flagship Galaxy S7.
Google is also working on a virtual reality platform called Daydream. ZTE's new Axon 7 is the first official Google Daydream VR-compatible handset and the only unlocked Snapdragon 820-powered phone you can get in the US for under $500.