Saturday, July 9, 2011

Nexus S to serve as brain for 3 robots aboard the ISS

The shuttle Atlantis is set to carry two Nexus S phones into orbit that will turn a trio of floating satellites on the International Space Station into remote-operated robots.

The 135th and last flight of the shuttle program, set for 11:26 a.m. ET, will help advance the cause of robotkind when the Android handsets are attached to the bowling ball-size orbs.

Propelled by small CO2 thrusters, the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites (Spheres) were developed at MIT and have been in use on the ISS since 2006.

As seen in the vid below, they look like the Star Wars lightsaber training droid but are designed to test spacecraft maneuvers, satellite servicing, and flight formation.

Normally, the Spheres orbs carry out preprogrammed commands from a computer aboard the ISS, but the Nexus Android phones will give them increased computing power, cameras, and links to ground crew who will pilot them.

The ISS Nexus-powered robots aren’t an entirely unique concept, of course. Toy maker Hasbro showed off something similar at Google I/O 2011, its conceptual male and female Nexus S robotic docks. The toys are able to move around and interact with their environment and even get dizzy when shaken by mischievous handlers.

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