Are smartphones about to enter a new frontier? Could be, as Lenovo and Google team for a tech tango involving augmented reality. And there’s a big triangle connection.

Make believe that your smartphone screen is a “magic window” that navigates you through a mall with 3D sensors or immerses you in a 3D game. Instead of taking photos or navigating the web or using apps you get an augmented reality tour. That’s the future of a smartphone being developed jointly by Lenovo and Google in a project announced late Thursday.

At the CES tech show in Las Vegas, Lenovo said it would develop the first such phone in partnership with Google, which has been pushing the augmented reality software development under the name Project Tango.

Heading the project is a Lenovo executive in Morrisville.

“This comes out of our Mobile Business Unit which is spread across the globe,” a Lenovo spokesperson tells WRAL TechWire.

“Jeff Meredith, GM of our Tablet Business, leads the group and is based in Morrisville.

“Our engineers, mostly in China, work with the Google team hand in hand. We aren’t sharing any more information beyond what we announced at the event.”

While virtual reality headsets and videogames are emerging this year, immersing players in a new form of 3D entertainment, Lenovo and Google are aiming to take smartphone devices to new levels of experience – minus expensive headsets or goggles.

An Associated Press reporter viewed a demonstration of Tango and wrote:

“In a demo of the capabilities of such phones, executives demonstrated how to play a virtual game of Jenga on a real coffee table, and they demonstrated how virtual pets could react to objects in the real world when caught in the phone’s gaze. One app also appeared to place virtual furniture and appliances in a room measured by the device to see if they would fit.”

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Here’s how the firms define what Tango is: “Advanced computer vision, depth sensing, and motion tracking to create on-screen 3D experiences, allowing users to explore their physical environments via their device.”

The software also works indoors and doesn’t rely on Global Positioning Satellite data as GPS does, the firms pointed out.

“With Project Tango, the smartphone becomes a magic window into the physical world by enabling it to perceive space and motion that goes beyond the boundaries of a touch screen,” said Johnny Lee, Project Tango Lead for Google, in announcing the partnership. “By working with Lenovo, we’ll be able to make Project Tango more accessible to users and developers all over the world to both enjoy and create new experiences that blends the virtual and real world.”

Google also is offering a developers kit for Project Tango apps development. It includes a table and software with a starting price of just over $500.

Lenovo and Google also launched an appeal for apps developers to seize on the Tango concept and deliver uses for such devices. Several apps have already been developed, and Google has even developed a demo augmented reality game using Tango, according to VentureBeat.

Google and Lenovo are not strangers. Less than two years ago, Lenovo bought Google,s smartphone division, Motorola Mobility, for $2.9 billion.

Earlier Thursday, the big news from Lenovo was the fact that the Motorola name was going to be dropped from smartphones developed and sold by the combined teams from Motorola and Lenovo creating such devices. While certain phones will retain the “Moto” name, they will be labeled as Lenovo.

The Tango devices will be powered by Qualcomm chips.

“To break new ground in today’s hypercompetitive smartphone and tablet industries, we must take innovation risks – it’s the only way to truly change the way people use mobile technology,” said Chen Xudong, senior vice president and president of the Mobile Business Group forLenovo. He oversees smartphone development.

“Together with Google we’re breaking down silos by working across mobile hardware and software. Turning our shared vision into reality will create a more holistic product experience that captures the imagination of today’s consumer,” he added.

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