Google smartphones with next-generation 3-D sensing technology are about to blast into orbit, where they will become the brains and eyes of ball-shaped hovering robots on the International Space Station. NASA plans to use the handsets to beef up its Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES, which could eventually take over daily chores for astronauts or even handle risky duties outside of the vessel.
The phones, part of Google's Project Tango augmented-reality initiative, will be aboard Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Cygnus cargo spacecraft, due for launch to the station on Friday. Inspired by a scene from the movie "Star Wars" where Luke Skywalker spars with a hovering globe, the soccer-ball-sized robots can be guided around the station's interior in zero gravity, propelled by tiny blasts of CO2 at about an inch per second.
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