I’m not Dead

However I’ve been really busy working with Google’s project Tango. I encourage you to watch the video if you haven’t already.

What is NASA doing with project Tango? Well currently there is a very vague article available here. However the plan is to apply Tango to the SPHERES project to perform visual navigation. Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed with trying to meet the schedule of 0-g testing and all the hoops there are with getting hardware and software onboard the ISS. This has left very little time to write, let alone sleep. In a few weeks NASA export control will have gone over our collected data and I’ll be able to share here.

In the short term, project Tango represent an amazing opportunity to perform local mapping. The current hardware has little application to the large-scale satellite mapping that I usually discuss. However I think the ideas present in project Tango will have application in low-cost UAV mapping. Something David Shean of U of W has been pursuing. In the more immediate term I think the Tango hardware would have application to scientists wanting to perform local surveys of a glacial wall, cave, or anything you can walk all over. It’s ability to export its observations as a 3D model makes it perfect for sharing with others and perform long-term temporal studies. Yes the 3D sensor won’t work outside, however stereo observations and post processing with things like Photoscan are still possible with the daylight imagery. Tango will then be reduced to providing an amazing 6-DOF measurement of where each picture was taken. If this sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to apply for a prototype device! I’d be interested in helping you tackle a scientific objective with project Tango.

This picture is of Mark and I dealing with our preflight jitters of being onboard the “Vomit Comet” while 0-g testing the space-rated version of Project Tango. This shares my current state of mind. Also, there aren’t enough pictures of my ugly mug on this blog. I’m the guy on the right.

Mimicking Zero Gravity

I know I promised a different blog post than this one. However I’m a bit crammed for time lately. However I do have something quick to show …

This summer, my interns Abe Shultz and Benjamin Reinhardt rejuvenated an old gantry system that is used for mimicking zero gravity for small spacecraft. This is part of my work with the NASA SPHERES program. In this video I demonstrate the gantry responding to external forces applied on a wooden analog for SPHERE. In the future the real SPHERE will be loaded up and will use CO2 thrusters to move itself about the room with the gantry responding accordingly.

This test apparatus is one facility I plan to use to test out a new visual navigation system that my coworkers and I are developing. What I’m looking forward to is the vomit comet flight we have scheduled towards the end of the year. This is why I’ve left some of the software development of ASP with others.

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!

Fly by Night application of ASP to Video

This is a video of horizontal disparity from a video stereo rig onboard the International Space Station. Specifically it was this camera. I used ffmpeg to split up the data into individual frames and then I applied ASP to the individual frames. I attempted solving for the focal length and convergence angle of this set but unfortunately I didn’t properly constrain focal length. (My algorithm cheated an brought its error to zero by focusing on infinity). Regardless, I’m pretty happy with the result from a Tuesday night at home.