Space

International Space Station's spherical flying robot speaks up for the first time

International Space Station's ...
CIMON is a medicine-ball-sized robot to help astronauts with routine tasks
CIMON is a medicine-ball-sized robot to help astronauts with routine tasks
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CIMON is a medicine-ball-sized robot to help astronauts with routine tasks
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CIMON is a medicine-ball-sized robot to help astronauts with routine tasks
Scientists look on from Earth as the CIMON robot goes to work aboard the ISS
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Scientists look on from Earth as the CIMON robot goes to work aboard the ISS

A first-of-its-kind robotic helper has completed its first day on the job at the International Space Station, with ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst powering up the CIMON assistance system and putting its conversational skills to the test.

CIMON, which stands for Crew Interactive Mobile CompanioN, is a medicine-ball-sized plastic sphere that was 3D printed and equipped with software by IBM Watson for AI capabilities. Built by Airbus for the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the free-flying robot is made to float around the ISS and provide its astronauts with support for routine tasks, as well as companionship and a form of stress relief.

The robot was fired up for the first time last month, with Gerst carrying out his first interactions over the course of a 90-minute session, glimpses of which can be seen in the video below. In it, he can be seen telling CIMON to wake up, asking the robot its name, where it comes from, and even having it play his favourite song "Machine Man," by German band Kraftwerk.

Things then go beyond the small talk, as CIMON displays and voices instructions for a crystallization experiment, tests out its ultrasonic sensors and streams video using its front-facing cameras. This was intended as a demonstration of its ability to assist crew members in a variety of ways.

Scientists look on from Earth as the CIMON robot goes to work aboard the ISS
Scientists look on from Earth as the CIMON robot goes to work aboard the ISS

"It is an incredible feeling and absolutely fantastic to be able to experience CIMON actually seeing, hearing, understanding and speaking," says Dr Christian Karrasch, CIMON Project Manager at DLR. "This first, real deployment in space has made aerospace history, and marks the start of what will hopefully be a long deployment on the ISS. I am fascinated by interactions with artificial intelligence. The CIMON system is the only one of its kind, and was designed specifically for deployment on the International Space Station. We are entering uncharted territory and pushing the boundaries of technological expertize in Germany."

You can see CIMON and Gerst interact in the video below.

Source: Airbus

Horizons science – Cimon

7 comments
Nik
We've all heard of ''big brother.'' Perhaps they should have given CIMON a female voice, so it could be, ''little sister.''
owlbeyou
The demonstration was so dry and boring that I began wishing and hoping that Gersh would (lightly) bounce Cimon off the wall and spin him around. Even the choice of song sucked!
ljaques
I sure didn't like the sound of Cimon's voice when he said "I'm sorry, I'm just a robot." It sounded like a little boy whose father beat him when he didn't give him the answer he wanted. =Bad= programmers! Shame, shame. <whap> It should be a nonchalant "Sorry, I don't have that info. Could you restate your request using other words?" rather than an almost-in-tears voice.
guzmanchinky
All this stuff is just pure fantasy until we get to a level that is like having a full normal conversation. It's almost too frustrating when Siri simply answers with "here's what I found on the web"...
Reason
Open the pod bay doors Cimon Nah, why change what worked so well ;)
Kalavo
You’d have more fun using blutak to stick an iPhone to the ball thing and talk to Siri...2018 lame.
Kalavo
Had to comment again sorry guys... but how much did the ball cost and does the German company have a contract for it’s future development? Cause it’s a waste of money. What happened to that robot with limbs from NASA a few years ago btw??