In a rare feat, Google smartphones with next-generation 3D sensing technology will be pressed into service to amplify the robots' functionality in NASA manned space station, Reuters reported. Google 3D smartphones will be sent aboard a cargo spacecraft on July 11.
Under the NASA terms, Google 3D handsets will act as the "brains and eyes" of robots at the International Space Station. In an interview to Reuters, Smart SPHERES Project Manager Chris Provencher confided they wanted to add communication, camera and add accelerometers and other sensors in the space station. They found the solution in Google 3D smartphones.
NASA scientists hit upon this idea after chasing many other ideas. The NASA official has revealed they will be using the Google handsets to beef up satellites known as SPHERES to augment its daily chores for astronauts and handle other risky duties outside of the vessel.
Google's Project Tango
3D phones are part of Google's Project Tango. Google is keen on making the technology ubiquitous roping in retailers to create detailed 3D representations of shops so that gamers can make homes into virtual battlegrounds.
The only difference is that the Google 3D phones will be altered by adding extra batteries and shatter-proof display before sending to the space station. This is to give the robots a wealth of sensing and visual capabilities to make them move around the station the way the engineers wanted. Also, NASA will split open the phones so that the touchscreen and other sensors are facing outward when mounted on the robots.
How it Works?
NASA is now keen to push consumer mobile devices to create a sense of space. The motion-tracking camera and infrared depth sensor in Google smartphones are perfect for them.
While the sensors detect sharp angles inside the space station, the resulting 3D map for the SPHERES can help in navigating from one module to another, the project head noted.