Smartphones are now being used by NASA and guess what the devices are going to do? The plan is that the phones are going to be the ‘eyes and brains’ of the NASA’s space robots. Yes, space robots.
The space robots which are called the Spheres which stand for Synchronised Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental satellites are at present, very limited in capability and usage. The Google smartphones are going to bring the robots to the next level. What is being hoped for is that the smartphones which are powered by Google’s Project Tango will give the robots more functionality.
Although the robots are seen to be modern day geniuses, they were only capable of certain movements since the robots arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) eight years ago. The space robots use small jets of carbon dioxide that propel themselves from one place to another.
The Spheres project manager, Chris Provencher told Reuters that those involved in the Spheres are looking to give the robots ways to communicate as well as equip the robots with a camera, accelerometers, sensors and processing capabilities. That’s where the smartphones will come in.
Engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Centre have sent cheap smartphones bought from Best Buy, an American electronics shop to the ISS. Astronauts have attached these smartphones to the Spheres to equip them with visual and sensing abilities.
But NASA knew that this wasn’t enough and that’s why Google ‘s Project Tango was engaged. Tango uses the 3D cameras embedded in Google’s latest smartphones to give the handset a human-scale understanding of space and motion. Once the smartphones from Tango are in the astronauts’ hands, as per before, they will be attached to the Spheres. The smartphones will utilize on-board motion-tracking cameras and infrared depth sensors to navigate around the space station.
This new step in the ongoing project will take place in two days on 11th July 2014. The new smartphones will replace the old phones.
It’s amazing how this communicative technology is helping space technology. What interests us the most is how this collaboration will propel Google’s own development in robotics especially after Google has purchased companies that specialize in that industry.
Also, by utilizing consumer products, imagine how much money will be saved by NASA. NASA has managed to take advantage of advancement in the mobile tech world to help their progress. Such ingenuity could not even be imagined a decade ago. This was one of the praises sung by Dr Fumiya Iida, a lecturer at the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge.
The Spheres’ creators are said to have been inspired by Luke Skywalker’s training droid, from the film Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The Spheres’ main aim is to help and assist astronauts with daily chose and risky tasks when they’re in space.
It really is amazing to see how technology is not only making lives easier and bringing people together through convenient communication, but also in helping the rest of science advance at a great pace and achieving progress we have yet to see until now.