Published: Wed, July 04, 2018
Research | By Jennifer Evans

SpaceX sends AI robot ‘crew member’ to join astronauts on space station

SpaceX sends AI robot ‘crew member’ to join astronauts on space station

CIMON will be the first form of artificial intelligence to arrive on the space station, where it will aid the astronauts with their research work and presumably become their buddy, as well. It's trained to recognize his face and voice.

So let's hope the International Space Station's new AI-powered robot crewmate will behave itself on its first mission into the heavens.

"What were trying to do with CIMON is to increase the efficiency of the astronaut", said Matthias Biniok, an engineer for chip maker IBM and one of the lead architects behind CIMON's artificial intelligence.

The Verge describes CIMON as something that resembles "a volleyball with a computer screen on one side", while FOX News has likened it to HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey movie.

CIMON is created to support astronauts in performing routine work, for example by displaying procedures or - thanks to its "neural" AI network and its ability to learn - offering solutions to problems.

Named Crew Interactive Mobile Companion (or CIMON for short), the floating orb is a little larger than a basketball and will use an air propulsion system to slowly move around the ISS.

Gerst will work in Space with CIMON a total of three times: 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. "They know what to look for, they know what signs they're looking for, they know what's going to have to be replaced".

The prime goal is to detect whether AI robots can cooperate with astronauts to help work life in space.

It's still unclear how useful CIMON will be.

Cimon will be the 11-pound right-hand to German astronaut and ISS Commander Alexander Gerst.

CIMON was built in a joint partnership between IBM and Airbus, and the ESA will be the ones to test it out, but it could be a sign of even greater things to come.

"We predict that assistance systems of this kind also have a bright future right here on Earth, such as in hospitals or to support nursing care", Biniok said. It is scheduled to return to Earth on December 13, according to the BBC.

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