ISS gets Watson-driven robot crew member to assist

The International Space Station is getting a crew member. CIMON, the Crew Interactive Mobile Companion, is a floating robot with IBM’s Watson-ai designed to make the daily tasks of the astronauts on board easier.

The project is the result of a collaboration between IBM, which designed the computer and ‘body’, Airbus, which made the propulsion system, and the German Space Center. The 5 kilo robot is spherical, with a flat front that shows Cimon’s face on a display. An example of a task for Cimon is to display repair instructions on voice command, to ensure that the astronaut performing them has his hands free at all times. Cimon also has a camera on board for facial recognition. It moves around by sucking air in on one side and blowing it out on the other.

The presence of Cimon is seen by NASA as an investigation into the efficiency and acceptability of an artificial intelligence as an additional crew member on long missions. For now, Cimon is tuned to specifically listen to the commands of crew member Alexander Gerst, who will conduct three different investigations with the robot.

On Friday, Cimon, along with more than 2.5 tons of other supplies, was sent into space by SpaceX, NASA’s commercial resupplier. A well-known Falcon 9 rocket was used for this. On July 2, Cimon and the rest of the cargo should arrive at the station.

Image: ESA