People, I have fallen hard for the new Lenovo Phab 2Pro, inappropriately on Valentine’s night. I’m talking full-on even-channel-4-wouldn’t-make-a-program-about-it love. When I should have been cuddled up on the couch with my wife enjoying gin cocktails on Valentine’s day, I was instead scanning walls and objects, measuring furniture and even trying to figure out if instead of making marks on a wall I could track my little daughters changing height in 3D.
Other reviews have focused on the project tango apps available today and the inevitable early flaws and glitches. They apps are great fun, but it’s not what it can do today that really excites me, rather the future potential to create for everyone. Weary synapses snapped like struck matches thinking about how this could be linked to 3D printing and within an hour of turning the thing on I had registered for a 3D printing course on Coursera.
Potential in Retail
From a research perspective I am very focused on how retailers can solve the problem of digitizing their store. I believe that 3D sensing technology is set to play a major role in this process, as it can track customers, inventory, staff, the physical store, product interactions, planogram compliance, stockout prevention, theft, etc. In turn this can enable services like Amazon Go. Today this technology is expensive to deploy but in a very short time, project tango is going to make these hardware platforms cheaper than today’s stereoscopic cameras. ABI Research is about to publish a report specifically on this topic for retailers.
Is it just me?
As any laden, dusty man shelf will silently testify, we are all a little prone to too early and too enthusiastic opinions of new technology. So I sanity checked. I called to my local innovation café to show off my new device to Sean O ‘Leary, a vision architect, who is much better placed than me to understand the long term potential of this technology, (he has also stoically suffered through me boring on about project tango for at least 6 months). Even with a rudimentary demo Sean immediately lit up with ideas around personalization of cars, clothes, furniture and even dentures. Sean’s work take him from start-ups and company CEOs to Olympians and stroke victims, and this latter experience immediately prompted applications for before-and-after gym programs, prosthetic limbs, pregnancies and remote patient monitoring.
Will Project Tango be the Death of Psychology?
But what really caught my attention was when he told me about a growing theory that psychology will slowly be replaced by neuroscience and taking control of the unconscious mind (as covered by Time Magazine and America Phycology Journal in 2014). He could see how over time, this technology could evolve to ultimately enable people to visualize and augment their unconscious minds in reality to create positive, incremental changes and enhancements to their lives.
If this sounds far-fetched, consider how we are constantly told we should visualize where we want to be in 5 years to make it happen. Well now you actually could do that but in a real world environment that makes it far more tangible. As Sean said, “you can’t create unless you can see it“. The media is full of scaremongering stories about the human race choosing virtual reality over the present . Sean’s thinking about the potential of this technology suggests the opposite; we can bring our imagination into the present.
The give a very practical, real-life example of this, the use of VR technology to help a patient link a visualization of movement with corresponding thoughts is already practised today in teaching paraplegics to walk again. This would take it to the next level creating a “real life” limb to visualize moving.
Early reviews of the Lenovo Pro have suffered from incorrect product categorization. This is not an iPhone killer (although it makes for a high quality phone) or a device for capturing your six pack in the right light at the gym (old photographer trick- you need strong contrast, so light from the sides or above!).
In reality this is a project Tango device disguised as a fully-functioning high-end phone. When reviewing this, it should be considered against other consumer technology firsts and how they went on to completely change our lives; the first laptop, the first camera, the first dishwasher, the first gramophone. What differentiates the Phab 2 Pro, and more specifically Project Tango, from a lot of these innovations is that they were often designed with one problem in mind, this can go in any direction it likes.
It is also easy to limpt his in with AR, VR and machine vision which I think misses the point. A lot of what I have seen in these areas so far leaves little for the consumer other than consuming. To me, Project Tango will very soon put the tools of production in the hands of the masses to go out and create. History has thought us that when that happens, innovation increases exponentially.
Lenovo deserves a lot of credit for having the vision to develop this device, despite the low level of consumer awareness on Project Tango right now. I hope this gives it the edge as and when this technology goes mass market.