“There are so many things possible, it’s hard to fathom.” – Lenovo’s Jeff Meredith
MORRISVILLE, N.C. – Lenovo launches a much-hyped, sensor-filled augmented reality 3D phone official today, launching it at the tech giant’s all-day “Tech World” showcase in San Francisco. Think virtual reality without a headset on a flat screen as you shop or develop a product.
Jeff Meredith, the Lenovo exec based in Morrisville whose team is pushing development of the device packing Google Tango project software, talks with WRAL TechWire about a device that he says “blows away” other smartphones.
“This could change customer behavior,” he explains enthusiastically. “If you can visualize something such as how a piece of furniture fits in a room or how a painting would look with your decor – why not do that?”
Augmented reality would provide these mobile devices with sensors that produce data on what could be called a “magic screen:” Real-time measurements and images, for example, of how furniture would fit in a room.
“Once you start to use this type of capability, I don’t see you ever going back,” Meredith says.
Think real-time, augmented navigation, too.
“If I can now easily navigate indoors – say at a museum or a mall – I’m going to do it,” he says.
Meredith recalls a “pretty cool demo” at a museum in which people were “given a list of things to see and where so they could quickly find sculptures and paintings on their devices and also to have information about each item overlaid on their screen.”
Think the hologram communication capabilities of Star Wars with a mini Darth Vadar uttering a warning at you plus real-time useable data that would show just how a light saber would slice off your arm.
Meredith chuckled when asked about a Star Wars comparison, but …
“In this first iteration, everything is on the screen,” he said, noting no objects emerge to stand or be modeled as often depicted in movies.
Think, for example, all the PC hologram action in Iron Man and Marvel Avenger movies.
However, Meredith sees the Tango phone as exploring new frontiers that could ultimately lead to such capabilities.
“When you can virtualize in an environment, that’s real. S lot of what we have seen in sci-fi filsm voer the years have become real,” he explained. “I think we have taken the first step.
“There are so many things possible, it’s hard to fathom.”
Lenovo could use a device that has a big impact and delivers “many things.” The company recently reported its first loss in six years, and plunging smartphone sales were a big factor. The $2 billion-plus acquisition of Google’s Motorola Mobility two years ago has hardly worked out as planned.
The Tango phone has created a great deal of buzz for Lenovo since it was first disclosed at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The hype grew even louder after the World Mobile Congress a few weeks later in Spain. And media this week has been filled with speculative reports as well as leaked images of what the Tango phone will be.
Lenovo sought inpute from developers worldwide for Tango-related apps with “well over 600” jumping in right off the bat, Meredith said. They want to be at the forefront of augmented app development. And Meredith welcomes their vision as well as applications.
“This really does broaden the device’s capabilities,” he said.
“Augmented reality and virtual realty have a lot of people talking without really knowing what it is and what it can do. This is a very tangible start from a consumer capability.”
Pricing details and where the so-called “phabpone” will be sold will be disclosed later today. It could be the first Lenovo-branded phone to be sold in the U.S.
“I’m not prepared to say” that the phone will be sold domestically, Meredith said.
However, he wasn’t reserved at all in talking about the device, which includes Google’s advanced Tango 3D technology as well as super-fast chips from Qualcomm.
Big screen, big impact?
It’s big: The screen is 6.4 inches, thus the “phab” label” – i.e., tablet sized.
And it won’t be cheap with a price point around $500.
But Meredith, who is a six-year Lenovo veteran, says with excitement:
“It’s really a big thing. This could really change customer behavior and devices.”
While other phones in the past have incorporated 3D- and augmented-reality type technology in the past, Lenovo’s Tango could be the one that becomes a big hit.
Lenovo has had “hundreds” of people involved in the device’s development, and consulting with Qualcomm was practically a daily event, Meredith notes. Coordination with Google also has been quite close as well as outside app developers.
Today, the world will see what Meredith & Company have developed.
He says getting it right from the start is crucial, too, so the pressure is on.
“For sure, there is a lot of self-applied pressure,” he says. “You want to make sure you are doing something exceptional.”