“CIMON-2 can, if required, switch from being a scientific assistant to an empathetic conversation partner.”
Following a successful trial of IBM and Airbuses space faring AI companion CIMON, an upgrade version of the free floating AI has been launched aboard a rocket bound for the International Space Station, where it will assist the crew in their experiments.
Developed in a collaboration between Airbus and IBM, Crew Interactive Mobile Companion or CIMON is a round device, weighing 11 pounds with IBM’s artificial intelligence Watson technology integrated. The structure is made out of metal and plastic that has been created using 3D printing. CIMON is capable of facial and voice recognition, as well as orienting itself in zero gravity.
Till Eisenberg, CIMON Project Manager at Airbus commented that: “CIMON-2 is expected to remain on the ISS and support the crew for up to three years. CIMON-2’s microphones are more sensitive, and it has a more advanced sense of direction.”
“Its AI capabilities and the stability of its complex software applications have also been significantly improved. During this mission, we are also considering further steps, such as uploading the AI to a cloud on the ISS.”
The Ancestor of CIMON-2
The previous version of CIMON was a companion of German geophysicist and Astronaut Alexander Gerst, who accompanied the first version of CIMON on its launch to the ISS.
On board Gerst used the floating AI to conduct a series of test to understand its manoeuvring functionality and its ability to work in zero gravity conditions. One test that Gerst and CIMON undertook was to use CIMON as an intelligent camera in a supporting role while carrying out complex medical experiments.
The project originally started as a self-financed study by Airbus. In august 2016 Bonn-based DLR Space Administration commissioned the company to deliver on the project.
Since then a team of 50 specialists have been working on the project, bringing together the expertise of Airbus, IBM, DLR Space Administration and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.
Matthias Biniok, IBM project lead for the Watson AI commented that: “During its first deployment on the ISS, CIMON proved that it cannot only understand content in context, but also the intention behind it CIMON-2 is taking this a step further. Thanks to the IBM Watson Tone Analyzer from IBM Cloud in Frankfurt, Germany, it is now capable of assessing the astronauts’ emotions and reacting in a manner that is appropriate to the situation, either at the request of the astronauts or when its emotional analysis is being tested as part of an experiment. This means CIMON-2 can, if required, switch from being a scientific assistant to an empathetic conversation partner.”