Imagine playing games in your house by competing against a friend to control over territories. Imagine you capturing a 3D map of your home by walking around with a small device in your hand. Or, what if you locate in a store the exact shelf of your favorite product? How is to build a low-weight quadcopter with the real-time ability for 3-D mapping and fly autonomously only with few instructions from user? All of these applications could become reality, and the heart of these is a new tool developed in the Google labs and called ‘Project Tango.’
The Google’s Project Tango tries to reproduce the 3D human functions for space, motion and how humans understand and interact with the surrounding world. Using senses, the humans can observe the size and shapes of objects and are capable of learning their position and layout without too much effort.
The Tango devices concentrate all these techniques and technologies into one single device after years of researches in universities, researchers’ labs, and with researchers from nine countries.
The Google project was released as smartphones and tablets. Both devices run Android OS and are engineered to track the 3D motion of the device and creates in real-time a 3D model of the environment around it. The smartphone has a 5-inch screen, while the tablet comes with a 7-inch screen. Both devices have located on the back two cameras able to capture images with the environment.
What could you do with Tango in robotics?
The Tango smartphone and tablet are devices capable of localizing itself in space without GPS or external sensors and was engineered to replace the GPS system for robot guidance and the motion tracking systems like Vicon and OptiTrack.
Inside the Tango device is a system able to detect at a high rate(30 Hz) the position and orientation having reference a starting coordinate system. This innovative system is particularly useful for robots designed to navigate and locate themselves autonomously.
Beside a depth sensor and a motion tracking camera, the device is equipped with two vision processors powerful enough to make over a quarter million 3D measurements every second for tracking the device position and create 3D maps in real-time.
Running the Android OS is an advantage for Java and C/C++ developers who need APIs to provide position, orientation, and depth data.
With real-time 3D mapping and tracking capabilities, several Tango prototypes were already used in prototyping flying robot for indoor applications. Two of the Google Tango smartphones are used to build an autonomous quadrotor and a flying robot able to fly in zero gravity on the International Space Station.
Project Tango Control Flying Robot
One small device and an innovative 3D system for mapping and tracking was the perfect tool for researchers at the University of Pennsylvania to build a flying robot able to navigate autonomously. This small device attached to the quadcopter is the Google’s Tango smartphone. The 5-inch Android smartphone host under its small body the Myriad 1 vision processor designed to combine in an efficient way intelligent vision with power efficiency. This helps the flying robot to increase its autonomy and process in real-time the images captured by the smartphone camera and create a real-time 3D map for its autonomous control system.
NASA Autonomous Space Robots
Another flying robot was engineered by NASA engineers, but this time it’s about a robot able to fly in zero gravity conditions around the International Space Station. The Tango project is a gold mine for engineers who needs small devices with a large amount of capabilities. The Google smartphone is attached to the SPHERES NASA’s robot aiming to help astronauts in maintaining the space station. The real-time 3D mapping system it’s the perfect tool to navigate inside the space station without crashing into anything.
The Google Tango Project is just at beginning with a long list of transitions able to transform the technology into robotic business. The idea is to create a control and tracking system smarter, faster, and more connected into the hands of millions of people and attached to millions of robots.