The Google Tango project is about to blast off…no, seriously, it’s going to space. The Project Tango team is working with NASA to integrate their new 3D technology into the International Space Station.
Ok, let’s back up. What is Tango anyway? Simply put, Project Tango will enable 3D tracking and mapping through a new smartphone being developed (see video at the end of this article). The device has motion tracking sensors, computer vision processors and integrated depth sensing. These sensors make more than a quarter of a million 3D measurements every second. The device uses this information to create a 3D map of the environment. Think of using Tango to ‘detect’ your living room and then using an app, shop online and ‘insert’ the funiture into the room and see how it looks. That is the very bare bones basics of what Tango does. Google envisions this device being very useful in many different areas including assisting those that are visually impaired in their daily lives. The possibilities are really endless.
So, why are we sending this stuff to space? In what seems to be one of the oddest pairing of words in an acronym, NASA has a project known as “SPHERES”. Which stands for (here we go..big breath) Synchronized, Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites. I’m glad they understand that and we get to call it ‘spheres’. According to NASA each sphere will have power, propulsion, computers, navigation equipment and now…the Google Tango device. Terry Fong, director or the Ames Intelligent Robotics Group said “This allows the satellites to do a better job of flying around on the space station and understanding where exactly they are.”
Not only will this new device help with regular maintenance on the space station but according to a Google + post from Google ATAP “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.”
It’s mind blowing when you think about what someone can do with their smartphone now. It blows my mind to consider that the tablet I’m typing on now is more advanced than the computer that sent the first astronauts to the moon. I can remember as a child going through Tomorrowland at Disney and looking at all the ‘ideas from the future”. There were teachers on TV screens, weird little ovens that zapped your food really fast and phones that you could talk to someone and see their faces while they talked. When I went back as a young adult that whole section had changed and was now all about living in space. Change is happening…fast…and Google seems to be paving the way for some really cool stuff.