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Meet CIMON — The First AI Robot Onboard The ISS

Meet CIMON — The First AI Robot Onboard The ISS


Space exploration agencies have put dogs, monkeys and even mice into space, but this is a first time an AI robot has been launched into space. In July this year, Crew Interactive Mobile Companion a.k.a. CIMON an AI robot was jointly built by Airbus and IBM to be sent into space. As per an informative video, uploaded by The European Space Agency, the AI robot was seen in a cheeky conversation.

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CIMON, the oval-shaped robot weighs 11 lbs with no arms or legs and is equipped with 12 internal fans, which allows it to sit stably and navigate the cabin in microgravity conditions inside  ISS. The robot can be woken up with the words “Wake up, CIMON,” and can play music, capture video and display instructions for processes on its screen. It is equipped with facial recognition software and can converse with astronauts aboard. It is being tested on the International Space Station with a wide range of capabilities, acting as an astronaut’s assistant.

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“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,” Airbus representatives wrote in a mission description earlier this year.

See How CIMON Is Hard At Work At ESA

ESA posted the first video of this AI bot interacting with one of the ISS on-crew astronauts Alexander Gerst, yesterday. Gerst is a German astronaut and a geophysicist, who is also the current Commander of the ISS. The video was intended to demonstrate the functions and capabilities of this first AI robot in space.

The conversation began with Gerst asking the bot questions on its origin and whether it knew about the space. CIMON answered all the questions and said, “Twice during Mercury’s orbit, it gets so close to the Sun and speeds, so much that the sun seems to go backwards in the sky”, replying to the space question.

The astronaut and geologist then asked CIMON to turn to 90 degrees. When Gerst told it that it had done a good job, it replied with a “I am happy you like it.” When instructed to assist with a procedure on epo crystallization, the bot displayed the required equipment on its screen.

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It was then asked to play the astronaut’s favourite song, and it started playing The Man-Machine by Kraftwerk. The space robot further demonstrated its video streaming capability using its front camera. While that was on, the robot did not seem to want to switch off the music function. When told to turn the music off, it said, “I love music you can dance to. Alright, favourite hits incoming. What else can I do for you?”

Post the demonstration, the space robot also faced a meltdown with Gerst. CIMON retorted, “Be nice please”, and continues to sound hurt by the astronaut. Not just that, the robot also found the astronaut mean, to which Gerst replied, “I’m not mean! He’s telling me I’m mean!” looking confused as explained to co-astronauts, Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, flight engineer and NASA astronaut who were also part of the video.

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