I pretend to be a part of HET SPHERES

I do other things beside develop Ames Stereo Pipeline. I actually have to this month because my projects’ budgets are being used to pay for other developers. This is a good thing because it gets dug in developers like me out of the way for a while so that new ideas can come in. One of the projects I occasionally get to help out on is HET Spheres.

This is a picture of that robot. The orange thingy is the SPHERE robot designed by MIT. The blue puck is an air carriage so we can do frictionless testing in 1G. There have been 3 SPHERES robots onboard the ISS for quite some time now and they’ve been hugely successful. However we wanted to have an upgrade of the processing power available on the SPHERES. We also wanted better wireless networking, cameras, additional sensors, and a display to interact with the Astronauts. While our manager, lord, and savior Mark listed off all these requirements, we attentively played angry birds. That’s when it suddenly became clear that all we ever wanted was already available in our palms. We’ll use cellphones! So, though crude, we glued a cellphone to the SPHERE and called it a day.

Actually a lot more work happened then that and you can hear about that in Mark’s Google Tech Talk. I also wasn’t involved in any of that work. I tend to do other stuff that is SPHERES development related. But I spent all last week essentially auditing the console side code and the internal SPHERE GSP code. I remembered why I don’t like Java and Eclipse. (I have to type slower so Eclipse will autocomplete. :/) This all collimated into the following video of a test of having the SPHERE fly around a stuffed robot. We ran out of CO2 and our PD gains for orientation control are still out-of-whack, but it worked!