Google’s Project Tango will power robots on the International Space Station

NASA SPHERE robot with Project Tango

One of Google’s two ATAP prototype smartphones, Project Tango is designed to track 3D movement using a multitude of cameras and vision processors. A joint demo by NASA and Google has revealed how powerful Project Tango could be when combined with existing technologies.

Engineers at NASA and have grafted a ‘space-ready’ Project Tango smartphone onto NASA’s SPHERES satellites, tiny robots that move along using C02 canisters. Previously, the SPHERES relied upon sound-emoting beacons attached to the walls of its environment to triangulate its location, preventing it from roaming outside a predefined environment. Project Tango enabled SPHERES can rely instead upon infrared cameras rather than GPS to navigate obstacles, furthering NASA’s dream of eventually using the robots in human exploration missions.

NASA currently has three SPHERES on the International Space Station, which will receive Project Tango integration later this year. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to read GigaOM’s full profile on the project.


Image credit: Signe Brewster