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Human Exploration Telerobotics Smart SPHERES Face Tracking on the International Space Station
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Human Exploration Telerobotics Smart SPHERES Face Tracking on the International Space Station

Mike Hopkins tested face detection and tracking code with the Smart Synchronized Position, Hold, Engage, and Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) on the International Space Station (ISS). An Android smartphone was attached to the SPHERES and captured video of Mike's face. The Android face detection feature was used to lock onto Mike’s face, then the smartphone directed the satellite to move to keep Mike's face in the frame and maintain a distance of 0.75 to 1.25 m, judging distance by the space between his eyes. Mike also tested the Smart SPHERES ability to lock and track by using a photograph of someone’s face on his iPad as the target.

BACKGROUND: The Human Exploration Telerobotics (HET) project demonstrates how telerobotics – robots remotely operated by astronauts or ground controllers – can be used to perform a variety of routine, highly repetitive, dangerous, or long-duration tasks. The primary goal of HET is to improve NASA’s understanding of the requirements, benefits, limitations, costs, and risks of integrating telerobotics into future deep-space exploration missions.

The Synchronized Position, Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites (SPHERES) were originally developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding. The HET project added an Android smartphone (Google Nexus S), as well as robotics software, to transform the SPHERES into “Smart SPHERES” – free-flying telerobots equipped with cameras, accelerometers, wireless, and high-performance embedded computing.

TEAM: Terry Fong, Jason Lum, Chris Provencher, and DW Wheeler

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Technology Demonstration Missions (TDM) program, Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD)

Contact: Chris Provencher

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