A tablet computer capable of taking 3D images is set to be put into production by Google, according to reports.
The Wall Street Journal quoted sources close to the company as saying a run of 4,000 devices will be manufactured next month.
The tablet will have two rear-facing cameras and advanced imaging software – and will be shown off at the firm’s forthcoming developers’ conference.
Google has said it will not comment on “rumour and speculation”.
But in March, Google showed off Project Tango, an effort to bring 3D technology to its handheld devices. A prototype smartphone had been given out to 200 developers to try out.
The technology makes use of infrared sensors to measure depth of surroundings.
While the ability to create 3D images with small devices is by no means a new technological feat, Google’s strategy will be to harness the hardware to contribute to, among other things, its mapping effort.
For instance, the devices could be used to create quickly a 3D map of indoor environments.
Virtual reality race
According to the Wall Street Journal, the 3D tablet will be shown off at Google’s annual developers’ conference at the end of June.
As it did with the Google Glass eyewear product, it is expected the firm will allow a select number of developers and engineers to experiment with the technology before a consumer launch is planned.
Although still a relatively minor industry, the race to create the “killer app” for building and viewing virtual reality environments is building apace.
In March, Facebook swooped in on a $2bn (£1.2bn) deal for Oculus VR, a company making a virtual reality headset.
A mini-site for Project Tango has highlighted a few of the firm’s plans in the area.
“Project Tango is an attempt to create a mobile device unlike like any other,” the site explains.
“A mobile device that shares our sense of space and movement, that understands and perceives the world the same way we do.”
In the past few years, devices able to view and create 3D images have made it to market, but suffered heavily from a lack of consumer interest, said Jack Kent, an analyst at IHS.
“If Google really pushes it, that might change the dynamics of the market”.