International Space Station to get an AI-powered robot crew member

CIMON will help astronauts repair parts of the ISS, giving them more time for research

AI digital brain

An AI-powered robot is currently on its way to space to help International Space Station (ISS) astronauts carry out repair missions, NASA has announced.

CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile Companion) was placed aboard a SpaceX rocket, which took off on Friday as part of a resupply mission to the ISS.

Advertisement - Article continues below

CIMON is a voice-activated piece of kit that can display instructions to fix parts of the spacecraft without an astronaut having to use their hands at all. The robot is ball-shaped, with a screen that resembles a face, it can fly thanks to tech developed by Airbus, and can recognise voices using IBM's Watson tech. It'll also guide crew on research projects or experiments, with everything stored in a huge database.

Although it's pretty smart, it'll have to pass a few training projects before it can be used for the more important tasks, NASA explained. German astronaut Alexander Gerst will be in charge of testing its intelligence using CIMON to experiment with crystals and a Rubik's cube. He will also test its capabilities as part of a medical experiment, where the robot will be expected to fly and record footage. 

The robot has already been programmed to respond to Gerst's voice, saving time once it arrives at the ISS, so he can commence testing whether AI could have a future helping astronauts in volatile environments. If the collaboration between IBM, Airbus, the German Aerospace Center and Ludwig-Maximilian University Hospital in Munich is successful, it could give the go-ahead for others to develop AI robots for use in space.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

"The aim of the CIMON project is to examine the current capabilities of artificial intelligence in a complex environment such as the International Space Station, in order to provide the best possible support to people in such conditions," said Matthias Biniok, IBM's lead Watson architect in Germany.

"These skills can be individually trained and enhanced within the context of their respective application. Artificial intelligence also makes particular use of artificial neural networks."

The partnership is somewhat ironic given SpaceX founder Elon Musk's staunch criticism of artificial intelligence and its potential to replace human workers. He once described work in the field as "summoning the devil", and last year said the technology posed an existential threat to humanity.

Image: Shutterstock

Featured Resources

Top 5 challenges of migrating applications to the cloud

Explore how VMware Cloud on AWS helps to address common cloud migration challenges

Download now

3 reasons why now is the time to rethink your network

Changing requirements call for new solutions

Download now

All-flash buyer’s guide

Tips for evaluating Solid-State Arrays

Download now

Enabling enterprise machine and deep learning with intelligent storage

The power of AI can only be realised through efficient and performant delivery of data

Download now
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/business-strategy/31780/the-it-pro-panel
Business strategy

The IT Pro Panel

24 Feb 2020
Visit/technology/30736/what-is-ethical-ai
Technology

What is ethical AI?

11 Feb 2020
Visit/careers/28212/a-guide-to-cyber-security-certification-and-training
Careers & training

A guide to cyber security certification and training

13 Jan 2020
Visit/ir35/introduction
Software

Hotmail.co.uk migration to Outlook.com: Qs answered

11 Nov 2019

Most Popular

Visit/infrastructure/server-storage/355118/hpe-warns-of-critical-bug-that-destroys-ssds-after-40000-hours
Server & storage

HPE warns of 'critical' bug that destroys SSDs after 40,000 hours

26 Mar 2020
Visit/software/video-conferencing/355138/zoom-beaming-ios-user-data-to-facebook-for-targeted-ads
video conferencing

Zoom beams iOS user data to Facebook for targeted ads

27 Mar 2020
Visit/software/355113/companies-offering-free-software-to-fight-covid-19
Software

These are the companies offering free software during the coronavirus crisis

25 Mar 2020
Visit/security/phishing/355120/hackers-pose-as-three-to-exploit-high-data-demand
phishing

Hackers target Three customers with "sophisticated" phishing scam

26 Mar 2020