Early this year, Google unveiled its Project Tango smartphone, a mobile device equipped with a depth sensor, a motion tracking camera, and two vision processors that let the phone track its position in space and create 3D maps in real time.
The device is particularly useful for robots, which have to navigate and locate themselves in the world. After getting a Tango device from Google, they put it on one of their quadrotors and let it loose inside their lab. A device capable of localizing itself in space without GPS or external sensors, as the Tango phone does, opens new possibilities for flying robots. Giuseppe Loianno, a PhD student in Kumar’s group, has made a video showing their initial tests with the device.
Kumar says the only measurement from the Tango phone is its pose, which is the position plus orientation with reference to a starting coordinate system, and the only other sensor used is the IMU onboard the drone.
Kumar says that the convergence of computation, communication, and consumers has a huge potential for the robotics industry, and a device like Tango is a key advance because it’s “Lowering the barrier to entry for autonomous robots.”