CIMON the First Artificial Intelligence in Space

CIMON the First Artificial Intelligence in Space

In the early morning of June 29th, a small robot possessing artificial intelligence was launched to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX’s Dragon cargo capsule on a two-day trip. CIMON is the first ever robot equipped with AI to be in space of any kind, claim team members. The intended purpose for this specific bantam astronaut assistant is fairly basic and short, with its name standing for “Crew Interactive Mobile Companion”. It is not hard to identify its job. Although its mission is admittedly basic NASA claim that it could lead to much bigger things for robotics in space including real life replicants, essentially hinting at humanoid robots being used for space exploration!

Kirk Shireman, NASA’s International Space Station (ISS) program manager stated “Having AI – having that knowledge base and the ability to tap into it in a way that’s useful for the task that you’re doing – is really critical for having humans further and further away from the planet”, at a recent prelaunch press conference. He later continued “We have to have autonomy, we’ll have to have tools like this to have the species successfully live far away from Earth”.

The Design of CIMON

The European aerospace company Airbus commissioned by the German space agency originally developed CIMON. The robot incorporates IBM’s famous Watson system into its AI system. CIMON is roughly spherical and weighs 11 pounds (5 kilograms). More impressively the bot is capable of interacting in somewhat complex ways with humans, even being able to identify who it is conversing with thanks to facial recognition software. Along with this CIMON does, in fact, have a face of its own, all be it a very simple cartoon one incapable of complex expression. CIMON will be able to fly around its space station environment using a system where it sucks in air and then expels it through special tubes.

Despite CIMON being able to interact with anyone, it is specifically tailored to European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, who is currently on the ISS aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. The system that CIMON uses commands it to work with Gerst on three different tasks. “They will experiment with crystals, work together to solve the Rubik’s cube and perform a complex medical experiment using CIMON as an intelligent flying camera,” wrote Airbus representatives in a mission description earlier this year.

They vigorously state that the robot will play a huge role in the medical procedure later saying “Alexander Gerst could say something like, ‘CIMON, could you please help me perform a certain experiment? Could you please help me with the procedure?’ that was said by Philip Schulien, a system engineer who works on CIMON, he continued “And then CIMON will fly towards Alexander Gerst, and they will already have started the communication”. CIMON will be capable of accessing an incredible amount of relevant information, meaning the crew will not be in a position of not knowing something.

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