Google and Qualcomm have a Project Tango smartphone with 3D-sensing camera tech in the works. Currently the search giant is offering a Project Tango tablet for developer for $512 in the Google Store.

The partnership between Google and Qualcomm will see the chipmaker incorporate the 3D-sensing camera technology into its smartphone reference designs. There are no definite plans for a consumer-friendly Project Tango handset for the time being.

Before we go any further, yes, there are already Tango phones out there. Thing is, there seemed only to be a very small number of them, and they were earmarked specifically for developers who proved they had something cool to use them for. Now that Tango tech is winding up in a reference design — a sort of pre-production working mockup of a phone — the leap toward a Tango-ready consumer phone is almost trivial. That future is probably still aways off, though, so for now the company’s settling for getting software creators more comfortable with Project Tango’s quirks. Google announced yesterday that developers could buy Project Tango development kits for $512 starting next week, but there’s one rub: Not everyone wants to carry around a 7-inch tablet with a trio of crazy cameras on its back. By squeezing down the size of those cameras and optimizing them to play nice with Qualcomm’s crazy-popular Snapdragon chipsets, Google and Qualcomm have made Tango way more convenient for developers to play with (eventually) and opened up another route to bring Tango to the teeming masses.

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