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Meet CIMON – The ISS’s Smiley New AI Crew Member

Just happy to float and help

By CBR Staff Writer

CIMON, an AI robot, has just been taken into Space aboard a Space X Falcon 9 rocket and will live on the International Space Station (ISS). However, unlike Marvin the Paranoid Android, it’s quite a happy looking bot.

Developed in a collaboration between Airbus and IBM, Crew Interactive Mobile Companion or CIMON is a round device, weighing 11 pounds with IBM’s artificial intelligence Watson technology integrated.

In a blog post for Airbus Manfred Jaumann Head of Microgravity Payloads at Airbus said: “In short, CIMON will be the first AI-based mission and flight assistance system.”

Mr Jaumann also points out that a lot of pioneering manufacturing work had been done on its design, as the structure made out of metal and plastic had been created using 3D printing. CIMON is capable of facial and voice recognition, as well as orienting itself in zero gravity.

Till Eisenberg, the project lead at Space Systems in Friedrichshafen, where the scientific payloads on today’s launch were prepared said an Airbus blog: “We want to study the psychological effects of long space missions on crew members.

Adding that they want to: “try out suitable countermeasures, especially those that reduce stress. We will place special emphasis on data mining and interactions between humans and AI.”

CIMON ISSFirst Tests

In these early space tests CIMON’s main companion will be German geophysicist and Astronaut Alexander Gerst, who accompanied it in the launch today.

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The first series of test done on and by CIMON will be to check its functionality in zero gravity conditions.

From there the tests will revolve around studying its interaction with the crew of the ISS. It will also test its object recognition and analytical capabilities by helping Alexander Gerst solve a Rubik’s cube.

One test that Gerst and CIMON will undertake is to utilise CIMON as an intelligent camera in a support role while carrying out complex medical experiments. This is exactly the type of synthesis between a floating robotic AI and a Human actor that could become common place on the ISS.

Project Origin

The project originally started as a self-financed study by Airbus. In august 2016 Bonn-based DLR Space Administration commissioned the company to deliver on the project.

Since then a team of 50 specialists have been working on the project, bringing together the expertise of Airbus, IBM, DLR Space Administration and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

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