Yesterday, Google announced Project Tango. It's a phone. It also creates 3D maps of whatever you point it at. It looks amazing. There is a video. We have it for you.
Here's what we know so far about Project Tango, in terms of hardware:
Our current prototype is a 5” phone containing customized hardware and software designed to track the full 3D motion of the device, while simultaneously creating a map of the environment. These sensors allow the phone to make over a quarter million 3D measurements every second, updating it’s position and orientation in real-time, combining that data into a single 3D model of the space around you.
It runs Android and includes development APIs to provide position, orientation, and depth data to standard Android applications written in Java, C/C++, as well as the Unity Game Engine. These early prototypes, algorithms, and APIs are still in active development. So, these experimental devices are intended only for the adventurous and are not a final shipping product.
Obviously, there's a lot more that we want to know. Need to know. Fortunately (we hope), there's a serious robotics angle here, as evidenced by the fact that nearly all of the non-Googlers in the video are celebrity roboticists, from places like HiDOF, OLogic, 3D Robotics, and the Open Source Robotics Foundation. And if these people know what's good for them, they'll agree talk to us before we have to send out the crack IEEE Spectrum Roboticist Intimidation Squad. You've been warned.
Meanwhile, if you're way ahead of us and have already decided that you want one of these, you can apply at the website below for one of the first 200 dev kits, which Google intends for "projects in the areas of indoor navigation/mapping, single/multiplayer games that use physical space, and new algorithms for processing sensor data," although if you have a better idea than that, Google's open to it. All you have to do is to convince them that you're an "incorporated entity or institution," and you have until no later than March 14th to make that happen.
[ Project Tango ]
Since Thalmic Labs got to play with a prototype of Clearpath Robotics' Grizzly for their first demo video, it's only fair that Clearpath got one of the first dev kits for its Myo gesture-detection armband. In about a day, they had it controlling a Husky:
I don't have a lot of information on this next video, except that it's a Baxter on a mobile base that's being controlled (at least partially) by a guy blowing air into a sensor, which might be a useful control system for future robotic wheelchairs:
RobotsLAB is introducing a new robot into their education lineup; called STEM BOT 3D, it's 3D printed (mostly), and includes 3D printing and electronics into the curriculum, since students print and build the robot themselves:
[ RobotsLAB ]
We missed this Valentine's Day vid from PAL Robotics last week, so, um, maybe you can just pretend that we're getting in early for Valentine's Day 2015:
[ PAL Robotics ]
Look, more robots in the real world! Or at least, as real world as you can get in a coal mine, without any sort of external localization or GPS. This quadcopter from DLR uses nothing but on-board sensors to find its way to a target and back home.
Given a defined destination, the multicopter was to automatically create a map of the site using an on-board stereo camera and sensors, and then navigate autonomously to its target. The airborne system confidently found its way through the mine's passageways, demonstrating for the first time the principle of autonomous flight under difficult environmental conditions and without external navigation aids, such as GPS. In future, flying robots equipped with this navigation system could also fly into buildings in disaster-stricken areas or map changes in mines over a long period.
[ DLR ]
The University of Manitoba's Snobots RoboCup team is all set for the 2014 competition in Brazil:
Doesn't he just get so adorably confused when the ball gets picked up?
[ Snobots ]
NASA JSC's Valkyrie robot didn't have the most fantastic time at the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials last December, but this video of past performances shows that the robot is certainly capable of completing the DRC tasks:
[ Valkyrie ]
If you have some sort of morbid desire to be schooled by a robot at Scrabble, you can head on over to the cafe on the 3rd floor of the Gates Hillman Center at CMU, where Victor the Gamebot is waiting:
[ Victor ]
Now, this is pretty cool: we know how many crazy things are possible when you've got a high resolution tracking system telling your quadrotor exactly where to go, but we're desperately looking forward to the day when that won't be necessary. UPenn has been working on ways of replacing their tracking system with on-board visual servoing for high-speed aerial grasping, and they're making some excellent progress:
[ GRASP Lab ]
Robots are getting more and more affordable, and Pi-Bot is one of the absolute most affordable kits we've ever seen. It's Arduino-based, includes motors, sensors, LEDs, and more, and if you pledge for one on Kickstarter, it's just $75.
[ Kickstarter ]
We haven't had a Curiosity rover update in a few weeks, so how about now?
[ Curiosity ]
We'll wrap the week with this vid from PBS, featuring some discussion on robots, humans, ethics, society, and all that good stuff. PBS talked to some people who absolutely know what they're talking about, including Peter Asaro, Wendell Wallach, and Kate Darling.
[ PBS ]
Evan Ackerman is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and technology. He has a degree in Martian geology and is excellent at playing bagpipes.