CIMON, the first ever flying, autonomous, Artificial Intelligent(AI) assistant for astronauts would soon get to work in space. The Flying Brain is created by Airbus, in cooperation with IBM., the largest computer company in the world. The 11-lb. (5 kilograms) CIMON who has an unforgettable face and features of a medicine ball will provide mission and flight assistance aboard the International Space Station. With the help of the photos and voice samples, it has been trained to interact with European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst who will test CIMON aboard the space station until October 2018.
On SpaceX’s 15th resupply mission, with other scientific equipment aboard the Dragon spacecraft, the bot would be launched this June. A statement from Airbus describes this Flying Brain as the first of its kind and hopefully, “a genuine ‘colleague’ on board.” According to the company representatives, 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. In an email to Space.com, Till Eisenberg, CIMON project lead at Airbus said that to help it to do so, CIMON would use IBM’s Watson AI technology and will be able to listen, understand and speak to the user. He also told that CIMON could guide the crew and help them by reading instructions, showing text or video on the screen, and answering questions thereby also detecting users’ moods and using that information to better interact with the crew.
CIMON will also help Gerst with significant tasks of experimenting with crystals, solving a Rubik’s cube with the help of videos and conducting a medical experiment. As an icing on the cake, CIMON will also act as an “intelligent” flying camera to document the research.
CIMON will also serve to demonstrate and explore robots with emotional intelligence, will interact socially with humans as social interactions between humans and robots will be especially crucial for long-term space missions. The happy-looking robot ball could also be helpful in a hospital or social care environments.
Eisenberg mentions that android’s potential applications are exciting but there is still some way to go before the tech is commonplace in both space and our regular lives. As astronauts have to work in a challenging environment on various facilities and perform experiments in different disciplines in a noisy and complicated surrounding, there is not a trace of doubt that an assistant like CIMON would prove to be immensely vital for astronauts and would reduce stress on the job and make the different tasks more manageable. When it comes to the inspiration behind the design of CIMON, the closest connection can be traced in professor Simon Wright of the science fiction story ‘Captain Future,’ a scientist who, in the science fiction series published from 1940-1951, put his brain into a robot body. The Flying Space droid is all set to make friends with astronauts and hopefully it would put its best face forward as a “flying brain” aboard the International Space Station.