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Google’s Project Tango Heads To Space

NASA and Google have collaborated to build floating zero-g robots

Michael Cruickshank
Google’s Project Tango Heads To Space© 2017 Google ATAP

Project Tango is Google’s ambitious new project to create smartphones and tablet devices which have advanced 3D sensing capabilities. Equipped with a large number of cameras and sensors, the devices are able to map their surroundings in real time, and then use GPS to determine their position within this space.

Google has been keen to show of some of the potential uses of this new technology, releasing a developer tablet equipped with the Project Tango technology at the Google I/O conference, and even showing how it could enable a drone to navigate autonomously around a 3D space. Now however, their promotion is reaching never before seen heights.

On July 11 NASA will launch the next evolution of its SPHERES program, which is working on building robots to help astronauts complete tasks on the International Space Station (ISS). These bots take the form of small spheres which float their way around the ISS propelled by minute gas jets.

Image: © 2014 NASA

What’s unique about this new launch however, is that these robots will be piggybacked to smartphones built by Google using the Project Ara technology. These phones will provide the SPHERES with the sensor array needed to dramatically improve their ability to navigate obstacles in the cramped environment aboard the ISS. Google has already tested this technology in a simulated zero-gravity parabolic arc flight, where it performed well, but its real test will begin once it reaches space.

Should everything go as planned, it will be a massive PR coup for Google, which will now have its brand and tech front and center in the highest place on (off) Earth. Check out the video below of some of the background and test-flights involved in producing this astronomical tech collaboration:

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