Project Tango is one of Google's stranger lines of research. At its core, the technology uses cameras to map the space around you in detailed 3D. It uses that data to create indoor maps, layering guided navigation on top of your screen's view of the world. It can also be used with virtual reality, allowing you to see the world around you, as well as other players, while at the same time layering a virtual environment on top of these real objects.
According to report in Bloomberg, "The company plans a big expansion of the technology this year and ultimately wants to make it ubiquitous." Google imagines a world where its maps can help you navigate inside a building after you arrive from the street. It could also use Tango to help guide you to certain products on a store shelf, or to provide a layer of extra information, an augmented reality, that tells customers more about an item they are interested in possibly purchasing.
Tango is also likely to play a big role in any VR headset that Google shows off at I/O. We wrote about how this might work as far back as February of this year. And recent news has only strengthened the argument that smartphones, and thus Tango, will be the core of Google's approach to VR. That's in contrast to the dedicated standalone headset like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Microsoft HoloLens.
As YouTube's head of product Neal Mohan put it recently, when talking about the experience of 360 video, all you need for VR with Google is a smartphone and cheap Cardboard viewer. "Those are the kinds of magical experiences this technology is going to be able to create, without having to spend money on some fancy headset." Tango is likely going to take that strategy, and push it one step further.