Google Project Tango and aisle411 Team Up for Augmented Reality Shopping

Project Tango is Google's new 3D mapping technology. It uses the smartphone's camera, gyroscope and accelerometer to do indoor mapping (based on SLAM -- simultaneous localization and mapping).

This approach doesn't require additional hardware installation (even Beacons). It just requires smartphones to do the initial mapping. It's one of three or perhaps four such approaches now emerging. Others include Indoor Atlas and FlyBy Media (a Tango partner). 

At Google's developer conference I/O last week the company was showcasing various uses of Tango, one of which was in a retail environment through a partnership with aisle411. The latter implemented Tango in Walgreens to generate in-store augmented reality (AR) shopping experiences (see video below). 

Product locations are married to a store map, created using the Tango technology. Using a smartphone or, in the video, a tablet fixed to a shopping cart, the end user can see product locations, map shopping lists to a floor plan and see enhanced product information or coupons "pop up" on the screen. 

Aisle411 says the technology allows for accuracy "within centimeters." This is a pretty interesting variation on some of the indoor location scenarios we've been discussing and exploring. However one question is whether stores will equip shopping carts with tablets, which could be expensive and risk theft. On the other hand this AR experience is potentially less satisfying and effective on a smaller screen smartphone -- users are unlikely to hold them out as they walk down store aisles. 

Regardless it's a pretty interesting marriage of digital and real-world experiences in a shopping environment. Aisle411 will be speaking on the indoor location technology panel at next month's Place Conference on July 22 in New York.