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Project Tango powered NASA SPHERES to blast into space this week

NASA's plans to send robots powered by Google's Project Tango 3D smartphones to the International Space Station remains on track, with the launch scheduled for July 11th.
July 8, 2014

Google’s Project Tango is certainly a diverse piece of technology, it has already found a home in flying drones and there were even plans to send hovering robots into space this summer. Fortunately, the launch countdown remains on track, as NASA and Google will be launching Project Tango smartphones and accompanying robots off to the International Space Station later this week.

As you may recall, Project Tango consists of a prototype smartphone and tablet with built in 3D mapping technology, which can be used to track nearby objects and reproduce accurate 3D models of the surrounding area. The Project Tango handsets include a motion-tracking camera and an infrared depth sensor to capture the spatial information.

Combined with NASA’s Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellite program, or SPHERES for short, the aim is to create useful machines that can manoeuvre through and understand their surroundings, which will eventually lead to robots that can take over the daily chores of astronauts.

“We wanted to add communication, a camera, increase the processing capability, accelerometers and other sensors. As we were scratching our heads thinking about what to do, we realized the answer was in our hands,” Chris Provencher, Smart SPHERES project manager

Plans for the launch started up last summer, where researchers began integrating Google’s 3D mapping capabilities with NASA’s own robotics platform, which was started around a decade ago. Since then NASA has been putting the technology through its paces, including a zero gravity test flight, in preparation for the launch into space.

Project Tango is scheduled to blast off into space on July 11th. For the earthbound, there is always the $1024 Tegra K1 powered Project Tango tablet to have a play with.