Lenovo Partners Intrigued By Augmented-Reality Smartphone From Lenovo, Google

Lenovo and Google showed off the results of their combined efforts in bringing augmented reality to market Thursday with the debut of the Phab2 Pro, an Android device that the companies say will let users have augmented reality experiences on a smartphone for the first time.

It’s the first smartphone to use Tango technology -- sensors and software from Google that can map surroundings, with uses such as visualizing how additions to a room (such as home furnishings) might look.

[Related: PTC CEO: Augmented Reality Is Key IoT Tool To Create Value For Enterprise]

Sponsored post

Lenovo partners who spoke with CRN said they can see the benefits of the technology for their customers, even though Lenovo will be selling the Phab2 Pro directly to consumers, as well as at select retailers. The Phab2 Pro is priced starting at $499.

Michael Goldstein, president and CEO of LAN Infotech, a Lenovo partner in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said his company does make smartphone recommendations to customers and is glad to see business-oriented Lenovo getting first out of the gate with an augmented-reality smartphone.

’I think it’s a smart play,’ Goldstein said. ’It’s good to see it coming from Lenovo.’

The Phab2 Pro doesn’t have a headset component, so users won’t actually be able to augment reality in the ’real world,’ as with the under-development Magic Leap, for instance. Instead, the Tango technology will let users visualize augmented reality on the device itself, using sensors for depth perception, which analyze the the shape of the environment and detect surfaces. The technology also uses motion tracking to visualize the smartphone’s location in 3-D.

David Felton, founder of Canaan Technology, a Lenovo partner in Norwalk, Conn., said the Tango technology eventually could be useful for some architecture and construction clients that the company serves. But the form factor would need to be different, he said. The Phab2 Pro, which has a 6.4-inch display, is phablet-size but still not large enough for their types of needs, Felton said.

’I can see the technology evolving and becoming useful in a tablet, but not in a smartphone,’ he said. For users in construction and architecture, ’they’d need something beefier and rugged, and they’d want something more sizable than a phablet or smartphone.’

Lowe’s is developing one of the first Tango-enabled apps, which will let users visualize products in their homes, and the home improvement retailer is also going to be selling the Phab2 Pro starting in September. The device will be available for sale online by the end of the year, Lenovo said. Best Buy will be carrying the Phab 2 Pro as well, though availability plans weren’t immediately disclosed.

Lenovo unveiled the Phab2 Pro at its Lenovo Tech World event in San Francisco. The company also debuted two other phones — the Phab2 Plus, which boasts two 13-megapixel rear cameras and starts at $299, and the Phab2, which targets affordability with a starting price of $199.