NASA to Send Google’s Project Tango Smartphone Into Space to Improve Robots


They take billions of dollars to research, years of knowledge to develop and they are sent off into space to aid our astronauts in finding out more about the deepest regions of our galaxy (and beyond). Yet despite the money, science and tech that goes into NASA’s (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) robots, they still aren’t the whole package and they most definitely need work. But this takes up time and, crucially, it uses up funds that NASA just don’t have which means that sometimes one of the world’s most well-known aeronautics groups has to turn to old-fashioned smartphones to do the trick, with the latest handheld gadget that they’re using in space set to be Google’s Project Tango.

Project Tango made headlines this year due to its advanced sensor capabilities in which the phone uses a variety of sensors and cameras to more accurately map the world around it, allowing it to do so without using clunky or heavy technology. It appears that this is the feature of the phone that NASA have found to be the most useful with experts saying that the tech resembles that of the 400-pound NASA Exploration Rover that was used to map the surface of Mars a decade ago. Rather than helping NASA navigate the red planet, however, Project Tango will actually work with NASA’S SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) to improve the SPHERES’ mapping abilities.

As it happens, the SPHERES can currently perform basic navigation around the ISS (International Space Station) by using ultrasound and detecting infrared light but Project Tango will provide large improvements to that, adding more detail to its navigational methods. Director of the Intelligent Robotics Group at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Terry Fong explains that,

“This is no ordinary upgrade. We’ve customized cutting-edge commercial technologies to help us answer questions like: How can robots help humans live and work in space? What will happen when humans explore other worlds with robots by their side? Can we make this happen sooner, rather than later?”

So with Google and NASA having already begun conducting tests to see how Project Tango works in a low gravity environment in a partnership that began in the summer of 2013, we can expect Project Tango to be sent to the ISS later this year.

We’ll keep you posted once we know more.

Via The Verge.

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