The AI robot CIMON is now all set to help the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
Today, Airbus and IBM‘s AI robot CIMON – short for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion – will be launched into space aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket en route to the ISS. The robot resembles a ball with a screen that features a friendly cartoon face. It will be assisting German astronaut Alexander Gerst in conducting experiments.
“CIMON is a mobile and autonomous assistance system designed to aid astronauts with their everyday tasks on the ISS. This will be the first form of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on an ISS mission,” Airbus said in a press release statement.
“CIMON is an experiment overseen by Space Administration at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in cooperation with Airbus (Friedrichshafen/Bremen, Germany) as the prime contractor. CIMON is a free flyer fueled with Artificial Intelligence, enhancing human expertise. AI-based technology is about constantly understanding, reasoning and learning, so CIMON is designed to assist and to create a feeling of talking to a crewmate.”
CIMON was designed to display repair instructions on its screen through voice command, keeping any astronaut’s hands free to do other tasks. It also has the capability to display experiment procedures while serving as the station’s independent, voice-controlled database. However, it won’t be allowed to operate within the ISS unless it passes a few tests.
The robot will be used by Gerst to conduct experiments with crystals and a Rubik’s cube. They will also be conducting medical experiments where CIMON will act as a floating camera. According to IBM, CIMON’s AI was trained using Gert’s voice. Thus, the robot only responds to the German astronaut’s commands.
Sending CIMON to the ISS could help space agencies around the world to know whether it is possible or advisable to use AI assistance on future long-duration space missions.
CIMON will be launched today together with supplies and other scientific instruments via SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 5:42 a.m. ET. The event can be viewed live on NASA TV or via SpaceX’s webcast.