By Kaviya Sanjeevi
Featured in The New Indian Express
CHENNAI: On July 13, a US Cargo spaceship built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, US, was launched for space delivery. The unmanned Cygnus spacecraft and its Antares rocket lifted off from Virginia’s Eastern Shore on an orbital delivery mission to the International Space Station for NASA. The spacecraft was carrying more than 3,000 pounds of food, supplies, hardware and scientific equipment. But an interesting item that could in the near future be in your hands, is now onboard as part of Google’s Project Tango, an initiative of the search-engine giant to create 3D-enabled tablets and smartphones.
In February, Google came up with a 5-inch Project Tango prototype Android smartphone, which is now abroad the Cygnus ship. PC World’s website says this Android phone combines robotics and computer vision technology to track the 3D motion of the phone, while creating a 3D model of the surrounding environment. “Google has worked with universities, research labs, and industrial partners across nine countries to develop the platform, including the University of Minnesota, George Washington University, apart from German tech firm Bosch and the Open Source Robotics Foundation,” says the report.
This 3D smartphone prototype will help astronauts integrate the 3D technology with its smart Spheres (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites) — free-flying space robots that NASA has been testing on the space station since 2011.
As computerworld.com reports, “The Spheres have only been operating in a small area of the space station. Once the sensors and cameras that enable Project Tango's 3D navigation are operational inside the floating robots, astronauts will move the Spheres throughout the station, mapping its entire layout. Once that map is complete, the Spheres can begin using the map to navigate throughout the space station.” After a month, the full map will be checked by NASA for accuracy.
Johnny Chung Lee, Google's Project Tango lead, was quoted by computerworld.com as saying that Google is teaming with LG Electronics to build a 3D tablet that is scheduled to go on sale sometime in 2015. The team unveiled a Project Tango Tablet Development Kit in June, which can be used by developers to create devices that can track 3D motion. These were designed for developers who were interested in exploring the future of mobile 3D sensing. Only limited quantities of the kit were available.
The tablet’s prototype will have 4GB of RAM, 128GB of internal storage and an NVIDIA Tegra K1 chip that features desktop Graphics processing unit (GPU) architecture. US-based Speck Design, an engineering design firm, was roped in by Google’s Advanced Technologies and Projects (ATAP) division to create a tablet model for Project Tango in 2013. With just five months to go before the deadline, minor tweaking and preparations are under way, before the tablet ships out to consumers (http://www.engadget.com).
The advantage of such 3D mapping will enable smartphone users map/scan interiors of most buildings and locations while they travel around the world. “Imagine if the directions to your destination didn’t stop at the front door, but to tell you exactly where to go and what to do,” explains program lead Johnny Lee. According to theverge.com, The whole story of Project Tango is the possibilities that arise when you’ve mapped the world around you, and what can happen when you’re mapping it in real time.
The device will track the full 3D motion of the device, while simultaneously creating a map of the environment. Visit http://www.google.com/atap/projecttango/#project for a video that shows how this technology works.