Just two months after Google announced Project Tango — an experimental Android-powered smartphone with 3D sensors — its Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) team is working to get a prototype inside the International Space Station to assist NASA astronauts with chores and tasks.
The 5-inch smartphone, which comes with 3D-tracking and mapping capabilities via its camera, will be attached to a robot (on a robotic platform called NASA Spheres) with the ability to navigate the station. The Spheres robots will work in zero-gravity and help those on board the International Space Station.
“Think about having a free-flying robot that can fly around inside a space station, perhaps equipped with some type of future smartphone,” Zach Moratto, a research engineer at the NASA Ames Research Center, said in a YouTube video detailing the project.
The team has been working with NASA Ames Researchers for more than a year now to get its Project Tango smartphone concept into robots that work in space.
“The Spheres program aims to develop zero-gravity autonomous platforms that could act as robotic assistants for astronauts or perform maintenance activities independently on station,” says the description listed in the company’s YouTube video. “The 3D-tracking and mapping capabilities of Project Tango would allow Spheres to reconstruct a 3D-map of the space station and, for the first time in history, enable autonomous navigation of a floating robotic platform 230 miles above the surface of the earth.”
Project Tango and NASA recently tested the concept during a zero-gravity flight that left from Texas, but the technology will launch into orbit starting this summer, according to Google.