The first 3D-scanning smartphone for consumers is just about to hit the market, as Lenovo unveiled the Phab 2 Pro at Tech World 2016. The first consumer smartphone to integrate Google’s Tango platform, the Phab 2 Pro is capable of capturing depth information from a user’s environment for possible augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and general 3D scanning purposes.
The Phab 2 Pro from Lenovo is the first Tango-enabled consumer smartphone. (Image courtesy of Lenovo.)
Originally announced at this year’s Computer Electronics Shows (CES), the Phab 2 Pro relies on a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, an RGB camera, fish eye lens, depth sensor and software from Google to map a user’s surroundings. Altogether, the device combines depth perception, motion tracking and area learning to allow for a whole host of AR, VR and 3D scanning applications.
An RGB camera, fish eye lens and depth sensor allows the Phab 2 Pro to “see” the world the way the human eye does. (Image courtesy of Lenovo.)
To demonstrate these applications, Johnny Lee, Tango lead at Google, showed off a number of apps being developed by partners. GuidiGO, for instance, has designed an app that acts as a virtual tour guide to provide AR museum tours. When held up in front of a famous artifact, the Phab 2 Pro provides information about it. In addition to a whimsical calibration app for mapping one’s environment, Lee measured objects on stage, played with a virtual domino set and surrounded himself with dinosaurs.
Lowe’s Vision allows for AR home decorating. (Image courtesy of Lenovo.)
At the event, Lowe’s Chief Development Officer Richard Maltsbarger and HGTV Rehab Addict’s Nicole Curtis made use of Lowe’s Vision, an app meant to map virtual home improvement products over a given space. With Lowe’s Vision, Lee was able to help Curtis and Maltsbarger replace carpet with wood floors and picked out furniture for the space.
The app from Lowe’s clearly demonstrates the ability to use the Phab 2 Pro for home decor apps, but, by targeting the phone at the home improvement community through selling the device at Lowe’s stores, Lenovo and its partners are acknowledging its importance for construction and architecture as a whole. It’s easy to imagine the construction industry using the Phab 2 Pro to measure a building site or an architect visualizing a blueprint on a plot of land with the Phab 2 Pro.
And, while Lee highlighted the use of the phone for augmented reality purposes, the Phab 2 Pro could potentially change the way that VR is done, as well, making it more accessible and, in some ways, more capable than existing headsets.
By combining the device with Google’s new Project Dream VR platform, environmental awareness is automatically incorporated into the VR headset, leaving users free to explore a virtual world without fear of bumping into objects.
With the first Phab 2 Pro smartphones available in Best Buy stores for just $499 this September, a much wider audience of users will get its hands on VR technology than previously possible with pricier and more specialized headsets such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.
It’s important to note that the Phab 2 Pro is also the first consumer 3D scanner, which will play an important role in the evolving mixed reality ecosystem. In addition to AR and VR capabilities, users will be able to 3D scan their environment for possible 3D modeling and 3D printing, or even for sharing on social media.
The 3D modeling community Sketchfab is a perfect demonstration of this use, as numerous users 3D scan people, landmarks, works of art and other items to share online. Because 3D models from Sketchfab can be easily shared directly on Facebook, users may begin to populate social media with 3D scans of their loved ones, new apartments, parties and more.
Data from the physical world will also be integrated into digital content, with users scanning their faces to bring into video games or other uses. Once manipulated, this data might be brought back into the physical world with 3D printing, as increasingly powerful printers like the Multi Jet Fusion systems from HP make it possible to create more detailed and complex prints.
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