Controlling Mars rovers: there’s an app for that
What if, instead of pocket-dialing, you could pocket-send-a-Mars-rover-over-a-cliff? That was the goal of two programmers at EclipseCon 2010 (via Slashdot). A competition at the conference asked developers to either create an e4-Rover client or use one to move a demo robot over a model Mars landscape. Two participants, Peter Friese and Heiko Behrens, built the robot-controlling client into an iPhone application.
Entrants could win the rover challenge at EclipseCon in one of two ways. The goal of the first competition was to create the most “attractive, usable, and effective” robotic command-and-control system based on e4, as judged by a panel. The second competition involved using the client to maneuver the provided robot over a landscape, earning points for completed tasks and getting the highest score.
Friese and Behrens built an iPhone application to control the robot using the phone’s accelerometer, tilting it around to guide the rover in various directions. They won neither of the two categories, which awarded prizes including a tour of a NASA robotics lab, Lego robotics sets, and credits for Amazon Web Services. Until we all get personal Mars rovers, the realistic implications of the app are small; however, these developers certainly have a jump start on a Mars rover game.