For a few minutes, I saw the Moscone Center -- and everyone inside it -- under water. Sharks and small fish even swam past me as if I wasn't there. And then, all of a sudden, I stood up straight and discovered that I'd poked my head above the waves. This experience, which is a virtual fish tank developed by 360World, was made possible by Google's Project Tango tablet and the Durovis Dive 7, an Oculus Rift-like contraption. It utilizes Tango's cameras, motion detectors and sensors to give you a sense that you are floating around with the fishes -- no snorkel or SCUBA gear required, of course.
This virtual tank may never turn into a consumer product, and if it does, it won't be until next year when the first Tango devices become publicly available. Tango, which is a project put together by Google's Advanced Technology and Projects division, is getting ready to push more of its 3D-mapping equipment out to developers to help come up with clever new scenarios and use cases. A startup named Shoogee was one of the lucky few companies who got its hands on Tango early on, and its goal was to showcase Tango's potential on head-mounted displays for Augmented Reality (and even virtual reality). In a mere month, it designed what's now known as the Dive 7. 360World, the developers behind the fish tank app, collaborated with Shoogee to make sure it worked correctly with the Dive 7 hardware.
The Dive 7 hardware consists of a clip on the outside which lets you swap out devices, and two eyeglass-like lenses on the inside. The screen is on the other side of the lenses, just a few inches away from your face. Since each person's eyes are different, the lenses can be adjusted vertically and horizontally to ensure that you can focus on the screen properly. As you might expect with virtual reality, the app is split up into two screens, one for each eye.
It's about as basic an experience as you get right now. The app is essentially a viewfinder for Tango's camera, but it gives you the appearance that you're either under water (when crouching) or above the water (when standing). You can look around at your clear blue environment and hunt around for fish and sharks, though you can't interact with them. If you're underwater and looking up, you can see the water's surface; when you stand up and poke your head out of the tank, however, the transition is incredibly choppy. But again, this is in early stages and isn't designed specifically for consumers yet.
The 360World app may be a simple one, but it's a solid indicator of what kinds of things are possible with Tango, especially when it's attached to a head-mounted display. It makes for a lot of cool potential in the fields of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. As a couple examples, you could play games that allow you to interact with your surroundings (I'd love a laser tag game that could be played around your office), or even walk around a city and see important facts about buildings, history or other points of interest. You might look a little silly wearing it in public, but that's a risk you take with any face-mounted device.