This Flying Space Droid Wants to Make Friends with Astronauts


CIMON will put its best face forward as a „flying brain“ aboard the International Space Station. Credit: Airbus 2018
The world’s first flying, autonomous, artificially intelligent (AI) astronaut assistant will soon get to work in space.

By Chelsea Gohd | SPACE.com

Meet CIMON, the first AI-based assistance system for astronauts. CIMON was created by Airbus, in cooperation with IBM, to provide mission and flight assistance aboard the International Space Station. The 11-lb. (5 kilograms) round robot looks like a medicine ball and has an unforgettable face.

CIMON has been trained to interact with European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst with photos and voice samples from Gerst. The bot is launching this June with other scientific equipment aboard the Dragon spacecraft on SpaceX’s 15th resupply mission. Gerst will test CIMON aboard the space station until October 2018. Described by Airbus and others as a „flying brain,“ CIMON will be the first of its kind in space and will hopefully become „a genuine ‚colleague‘ on board,“ a statement from Airbus said. [Real-Life ‚Replicants‘: 6 Humanoid Robots Used for Space Exploration]

Airbus hopes that CIMON’s computer voice and screen face, which Gerst gave input on, will help the AI to „make friends“ with the astronauts on board the space station, company representatives said in the statement. To help it do so, CIMON will use IBM’s Watson AI technology and „will be able to listen, understand and speak to the user,“ Till Eisenberg, CIMON project lead at Airbus, said in an email to Space.com.

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