Subsequent to the latest news about Pentagon approving of Android over iOS, there is now another government agency that will also use Android. Though there is nothing fresh in it, the exciting part of it is that Android has taken things to an entirely new level or in other words out of this world. Scientists at NASA are presently working on developing ‘helper robots’ called SPHERES abbreviated for (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experiemental Satellites) that are powered by Android.
The robots are each of the size of volleyball and have miniature carbon dioxide thrusters that enable them to fly around International Space Station.The robots have their own onboard power, propulsion, computing and navigational software. A Samsung Nexus is attached to each robot transforming itself into a compact ‘Smart Sphere’ with its low power, low cost embedded computer, built-in cameras and sensors to enhance and expand robotic operations. NASA has licensed the Nexus smartphone to be used in space station, each with a connected SPHERE. The Nexus smartphone are connected to the SPHEREs free-flyer through a cable and a wireless network is connected to the computer at the space station that provides a data path to the ground.
NASA is conducting experiments to demonstrate how the SPHERES can serve as remotely operated assistants for astronauts in space. In the upcoming days, these compact assistants will conduct interior station surveys and inspections, capture mobile camera images along with video. NASA is also planning to simulate external free-flight excursions and will test whether the robots can handle other challenging tasks. According to the words spoken by Terry Fong, project manager of the Human Exploration Telerobotics project and Director of the Intelligent Robotics Group at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif:
“The tests that we are conducting with Smart SPHERES will help NASA make better use of robots as assistants to and versatile support for human explorers — in Earth orbit or on long missions to other worlds and new destinations”
NASA is well aware of the fact that Nexus S is being used by many consumers all over the world and thus has made some minor changes in the GSM antenna of the smartphone so that it cannot be located any further and also to reduce the interference. The smartphone is also powered by AA battery instead of the usual Li-Ion battery.
In the words of Mark Micire, a software engineer at Intelligent Robotics Group:
“Android is a very important feature for our team. The availability of the Android source code allows us to customize the smartphone to be used as a compact, low-cost, low-power computer, rather than just as a phone. And because the platform is open-source, we anticipate that the public will be able to develop Android software that can be used in our experiments. In the future, you are going see smartphones used for all sorts of embedded processing applications, from robotics to sensor networks and equipment control.”
With Android being used in space, its future seems infinite and unimaginable. Lets hope and watch in awe as it emerges as the leader of smartphone OS both in this world and also out of it. Take a look at the video posted below that depicts the magnificence of Android used out of this world.