At the core of Google’s freshly announced experimental Project Tango smartphone platform is a vision processor called the Myriad 1, manufactured by chip startup Movidius and its CEO Remi El-Ouazzane. The chip is being used by Google’s Advanced Technology And Projects Group, retained in the Motorola split, to enable developers to access computer vision processing never before seen on a phone.
I’ve been talking to El-Ouazzane about the possibilities of the Myriad 1 and computer vision on mobile devices for some time. The way that low-powered computer vision systems like this will change the phones that we all use cannot be overstated.
The revolutionary part of the Myriad 1 vision processor? Power, pure and simple.
Most 3D-sensing platforms — like the PrimeSense chip inside Microsoft’s original Kinect — have a comparatively enormous power draw, usually over 1 watt. That’s orders of magnitude higher than what’s needed in order to make it a viable option for use in mobile devices, where power is always at a premium. The iPhone’s battery hovers around 1,500 mAh, which is many, many times smaller than is needed to power such a chip for any length of time. The...