Lenovo's Phab2 Pro will be the first Google Project Tango AR smartphone

Lenovo's Phab2 Pro smartphone, developed with Google, has a 6.4-inch quad HD screen, and will ship for $499 in August

Lenovo's new Phab2 Pro, developed with Google, brings augmented reality to smartphone screens without the need for a headset.

The device, which has a 6.4-inch screen, pushes smartphone functionality to new heights. The giant display presents a wealth of information that changes how people interact with the physical world around them.

The smartphone, based on Google's Project Tango computer vision technology, will ship worldwide in August for US $499, Lenovo announced Thursday. It's loaded with cutting-edge sensors, cameras, and a Snapdragon 652 processor from Qualcomm.

The device can be used to measure distances, recognize items, map locations, and provide real-time indoor navigation.

By integrating Tango in Phab2 Pro, Lenovo "can provide enhancements to everyday user experiences that will be so valuable that it's almost second nature," Jeff Meredith, vice president and general manager of Android and Chrome Computing at Lenovo, said in an interview.

Google said Phab2 Pro is the first Project Tango device, and many more will come.

"With a Tango-enabled phone, you also have a toybox, a solar system, and a pet shop in your pocket. You can play with a huge set of dominoes, explore the planets, defend yourself from invading aliens, or feed your virtual dog all through your phone," Google said.

One goal with Phab2 Pro is to enhance indoor navigation, where GPS typically does not work well. In a museum, the smartphone could guide a user to a specific painting and display information about the artist and the work.

The smartphone could also guide a person to a specific booth in a convention center, something conventional navigation systems can't do.

Gaming will reach new heights on the Tango smartphone, Meredith said. Users can play augmented reality games by superimposing graphics on real-world backgrounds. Imagine playing a shooter game with the world around you as the background.

Someone remodeling their kitchen could superimpose pictures of furniture and cabinets, in different colors, onto an image of the actual room. The Phab2 Pro previews what the new kitchen would look like.

Lenovo is partnering with home improvement retailers Lowe's and Wayfair. With Wayfair's app, for instance, you could use the Phab2 Pro to preview new furniture for your living room.

The augmented reality is made possible by a unique set of hardware and sensors in the smartphone. The handset establishes location and contextual awareness by understanding the device's position, plus motion, images, and location, Meredith said.

That input is delivered to special software tied to Project Tango installed in the handset, which runs the Android 6.0 OS.

The back of the smartphone has a motion-tracking sensor, a fish-eye camera, a depth sensor, and a regular RGB camera, which can provide a broad 150-degree view. The smartphone also has a 5-megapixel front camera.

The smartphone was announced earlier this year at CES by Lenovo and Google, but specifications weren't finalized at the time. The companies started collaborating on Project Tango in mid-2015, and they plan to bring computer vision to devices like virtual reality headsets, Meredith said.

Lenovo is encouraging the development of apps for Project Tango devices. There are just seven to eight apps to begin with but more should follow.

For example, Project Tango devices could guide a user to the right platform in a subway station using contextual and positional awareness, Meredith said.

Google has suggested Project Tango could be used in stores -- devices could guide users through aisles to specific products, and then to cashiers by mapping “check out” signs.

Google has said Project Tango devices will also be able to map out entire homes and offices.

The Phab2 Pro will be improved over time. Object measurements aren't accurate to the millimeter today, but that should get better, Meredith said.

The smartphone's screen displays images at a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution. The handset weighs 259 grams and measures 10.7-millimeters at its thickest point. It has dual nano-SIM slots, 64GB of storage, 4GB of memory, and a micro-SD slot for up to 128GB of extra storage. The handset has a 4050 milliamp-hour battery that can provide 18 hours of talk time and 13 days of standby time.

Lenovo also announced the Phab2 Plus, which has a 6.4-inch full high-definition screen. It runs on a MediaTek quad-core processor, has 32GB of storage, and 3GB of RAM. It has a micro-SD slot for up to 128GB of external storage, and it offers 23 hours of talk time and 17 hours of standby time. It weighs 218 grams and is 9.6 millimeters thick. It has a 13-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front camera. It will ship in September starting at $299.

Lenovo also announced the $199 Phab2, which has a 6.4-inch screen and 16GB of storage. It will ship in September.

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Agam Shah

IDG News Service
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