The Flying Brain- CIMON Astronaut Assistance System

On Friday, June 29, 2018, SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket went zooming past the sky, launching a Dragon cargo ship towards the International Space Station (ISS). Among the 2,600 kg cargo that it has launched, there’s a basketball-sized robot, set to create a record as the first robot with artificial intelligence to fly in space. It’s name, you ask? CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile Companion), it is!

Developed by Airbus, a European aerospace company, this English-speaking robot uses the infamous AI of IBM’s Watson. The 5-kilogram CIMON was designed to assist astronauts working in space. Though capable of assisting anyone, it was particularly hardwired for the German astronaut Alexander Gerst, who was flown to the ISS by a Russian Soyuz spacecraft earlier this month.

Generally, astronauts read instructions to perform tasks from a laptop, which is not a very effective way, according to Matthias Biniok, one of the chief lead architects behind the AI of CIMON. This, however, could be bettered with the help of AI-powered robots, like CIMON. CIMON dictates the instructions to the astronaut, making it easier for him to concentrate on the work he’s doing, thereby saving precious time. CIMON also uses face-and voice-recognition algorithms to know whom it is talking to.

For demonstration purpose, the droid takes part in three separate sessions of investigation with Mr. Gerst. One is a crystal growth study, one to perform a medical experiment to test it’s eight onboard cameras, and another exercise to help Alexander Gerst solve a Rubik’s cube.

Manfred Jaumann, head of microgravity payloads at Airbus, dubbed the robot as a ‘flying brain’.

‘In the medium term, aerospace researchers also plan to use the CIMON project to examine group effects that can develop over a long period of time in small teams and that may arise during long-term missions to the Moon or Mars. Social interaction between people and machines, between astronauts and assistance systems equipped with emotional intelligence, could play an important role in the success of long-term missions.’

Image Sources: Pexels.

Leave a Reply