How to tweet from space – the launch

By | 2 minute read | August 9, 2016

project edge view from space leadspace

Following six weeks of frenetic preparation by a team of Imperial College students and an IBM Senior Inventor, The Sentinel was finally ready to launch Watson into space. An affordable, cognitive probe that could keep watch on earth. It would look for signs of danger and report back any issues it saw. It would also monitor social responses to any events on Twitter for context. The Sentinel took the picture above of Watson in space.

You can read ‘How to tweet from space – the build‘ if you missed the building of the Sentinel.

the sentinel probe is ready for launchThe Sentinel has a look of BB8 about him

Time to launch

On June 19, the team made their final preparations. They took the probe, the weather balloon and the helium gas to a field near Churchill College, Cambridge. They filled the balloon, attached the probe and launched it 20 miles above earth. Watson was in space. Here you can see the team prepare for the launch, Watson’s maiden space flight and his decent back to earth.

Watch Watson launched into space

Tweets in space

There were a number of measures that the Sentinel took, all of which were available on request by Tweeting to @IBMICLSentinel. The Twitter account provided some instructions, and a quick tweet with a hashtag would get a reply from Watson in space.

picture of a tweet requesting information from Watson in spaceRequesting the Sentinel’s data

picture of a tweet of Watson replying to a request fromspaceThe data reply from the Sentinel

Whilst in space, the Sentinel took a number of pictures of the journey. Here you can see a selection of photographs that it took from its launch in Cambridge to its highest point and return back to earth, near Milton Keynes.

montage of the launch into space and return of the senitnel probeThe launch and return of the Sentinel (click for larger image)

The Sentinel was also equipped with an OLED display that it could take pictures of, so you could tweet to Watson and see your tweet in space. Here’s an example:

picture of a tweet sending a tweet to Watson in spaceThe tweet from the ground

picture of a tweet from Watson in spaceThe tweet in space!

The Sentinel carried a Raspberry Pi, GPS, LoRa antennae, OLED display and GoPro camera. It collected a range of data and sent it back to earth across radio waves. A second Raspberry Pi and laptop collected and interpreted the data. IBM Bluemix, IBM Messaging, Watson and Watson IoT and Node Red interpreted the unstructured data including images taken from the edge of space. Tweets sent to the probe were analyzed by Watson’s Tone Analyzer. Here’s an example of Watson determining the content of one of the photos taken from space.

picture of a tweet where Waton analyzes images from spaceWatson analyzes images from space

If you’d like to build a probe like this, you can find a set of tutorials on Imperial College’s ‘Project Edge’ website. If you’ve built a project like this – please give us some details below – we’d love to hear from you, and if you’d like to talk to me about building a project like this – get in touch.

This has been an amazing project to work on and demonstrates just some of the potential of the Internet of Things. You can find out more about this, and other projects at the IBM Innovation Centre, Hursley website, or drop me a line below and let’s start a conversation.