Google’s Project Tango 3D interior mapping technology, which will shortly be appearing in a tablet, is also taking to the air. A team from University of Pennsylvania led by Professor Vijay Kumar are using a Tango-equipped smartphone to enable a quadrocopter to navigate the interior of a building … 

The Tango smartphone is equipped with a projector that transmits a grid of infra-red dots to illuminate the surroundings, which are detected by the matching infra-red camera. The size of the dots tells Tango how far away a wall or other object is, and allows it to construct a detailed 3D model of its surroundings.

All of the positioning you see in the video is achieved using the Tango smartphone with the assistance of only an inertial measurement unit. There is no GPS or other vision system of any kind. In tests, they found that the drone was able to maintain its position, and follow a track through the building, to an accuracy of 1cm.

The hope is that this will address one of the key challenges in creating autonomous robots, whether on the ground or in the air: allowing them to navigate the interior of buildings without the need to add sensors or other infrastructure to the building itself.

Project Tango has also been tested in a zero-G environment. Once our robot overlords develop sufficient intelligence to take over the planet, there will be no place to hide …

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