Airbus is using artificial intelligence from IBM to create an AI robot that will live on the International Space Station. This 3D printed mission and flight assistance system is called the Crew Interactive Mobile Companion, also known as CIMON.
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) will soon have their own AI-based mission and flight assistance system to provide support to the crew. The European aerospace company Airbus is working in cooperation with IBM to develop CIMON (Crew Interactive MObile CompanioN). This is an AI-based assistant developed for the DLR Space Administration.
CIMON is the size of a medicine ball and weighs around 5 kg. Airbus uses plastic and metal 3D printing to create the structure of the AI robot. Using Watson AI technology from the IBM cloud, CIMON will have a face, voice, and loads of artificial intelligence.
“In short, CIMON will be the first AI-based mission and flight assistance system. We are the first company in Europe to carry a free flyer, a kind of flying brain, to the ISS and to develop artificial intelligence for the crew on board the space station,” said Manfred Jaumann, Head of Microgravity Payloads from Airbus.
This unique AI system will help astronauts with routine work, displaying procedures and even offering solutions to problems. Astronaut Alexander Gerst is planning to test CIMON on the ISS during the European Space Agency’s Horizons mission. This expedition will take place between June and October 2018.
Once CIMON floats its way aboard the ISS, crew members will have an assistant to make everyday tasks easier to complete. The AI-based mission and flight assistance system will aim to increase efficiency, facilitate mission success, and improve security. According to Airbus, CIMON will also act as an early warning system for technical problems on the spacecraft.
CIMON Astronaut Assistance System to Become the Latest Member of the ISS
The Watson-based AI trains itself with voice samples and photos of Gerst. The astronaut also played a role in selecting CIMON’s screen face and computer voice, making it easier for the duo to become friends. The AI system is also knowledgable about the procedures and plans of the Columbus module of the ISS.
CIMON is still learning how to orientate itself and move around. Additionally, it’s using WATSON AI technology to accumulate information and recognize its human co-workers. Once testing is complete, Gerst will take on three different space missions with the AI-based system.
Together, the astronaut and CIMON will experiment with crystals, work together to solve the Rubik’s cube, and also perform a complex medical experiment with an ‘intelligent’ flying camera. At first, the AI system will have a limited range of capabilities. Eventually, it will be used to examine social interaction between man and machine, or more specifically, between astronauts and AI systems equipped with emotional intelligence.
The project was commissioned by the Bonn-based DLR Space Administration back in August 2016. Currently, CIMON is being worked on by a project team of over 50 people, including members from Airbus, DLR, IBM, and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich (LMU).
In the future, Airbus believes that this type of AI system can make an impact in hospitals and social care. For now, CIMON will focus on assisting astronauts with routines, and interacting with them on a social level. And, as long as the AI system doesn’t undergo some evil HAL 9000-like evolution, this intelligent robot should make life easier for those residing on the ISS.