Though it's difficult to put a finger on the exact date Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) booted Apple to the curb and took over the crown as the most innovative company on the planet, the last couple of years have left little doubt it earned the title. By now you've likely heard about the company's forays into self-driving cars, diabetes-monitoring smart contact lenses, and even Google Fiber for inexpensive, warp-speed Internet access.

Of course, a willingness to push the innovation envelope means some projects that sounded great during the brain-storming session don't quite translate to reality: Project Loon comes to mind. You may recall pictures of those odd looking, cylindrical balloons that were designed to ride the atmospheric winds beaming down Internet access to underserved markets around the world. OK, no one bats a thousand. But Google's latest innovation could blow the doors off one of the world's biggest industries: smartphones.

Welcome to Project Tango
Of all the futuristic glasses, panoramic maps, and other technologically advanced innovations, Project Tango could end up being the biggest game-changer for Google since the advent of its Android OS. The goal of the project, according to the company, is to "give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion."

Though still in the development stage, Google said its been working on the 3-D technology for the past year, and now prototypes of its 3-D, motion-detecting smartphone are ready for developers to sink their teeth into.

The futuristic phone will come with a five-inch screen, which is on the low-end of what most consider a phablet, and is able to track full 3-D motion as it scans its surroundings using phones sensors, all the while creating a map of the local environment. The sensors that give the phone its 3-D mapping and motion detection capabilities are able to make more than 250,000 measurements every second, updating its orientation instantly, then combines all that data and input into a single image. Whoa.

Sounds cool, but so what?
At first glance, the notion of a 3-D phone with that kind of computing power sounds great, but other than being able to see slick, 3-D versions of the world around you, what's the point? Google gives us a few examples of how it envisions a Project Tango phone could be used, and it's not hard to let your imagine run amok with a few more ideas, too.

According to Google, a few practical uses of a Tango smartphone include a quick scan of a room in your home, providing specific dimensions before heading out furniture shopping. Better still, a 3-D smartphone could help a visually impaired person navigate unfamiliar surroundings, such as the inside of a new building or home.

Can you imagine the impact a Project Tango smartphone would have on the gaming community? Gaming apps are some of the most popular downloads on Android OS devices, and the notion of gamers being able to fully immerse themselves into a 3-D world of angry birds and the like is tantalizing, to say the least.

As it stands today, Google has 200 developer kits ready and waiting for tech gurus to start developing cutting-edge tools to optimize the technology. Not surprisingly, Google expects there to be plenty of interest among developers, saying it intends to distribute the 200 dev kits in the next day or two. There's no timetable for when Google hopes to have its 3-D smartphones ready for full-scale production, but Project Tango appears to be a lot more than just idle talk coming out of its Mountain View HQ.

Final Foolish thoughts
As Apple rumors abound surrounding what its new smartphone will look like, or when it will reveal its newest iPad iteration, Google is in the process of changing the world -- again. Project Tango, and what it represents, is why Google is hands down the most innovative company in the world. It also explains why Google should be included in most every long-term-growth investor's portfolio.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.