The Crew Interactive Mobile CompaniON (CIMON), which is the first artificial intelligence (AI)-based astronaut assistance system returned to Earth last week after spending over a year on the International Space Station (ISS). The AI robot is now expected to make its way to Germany at the end of October. CIMON, which is pronounced as Simon, returned on board the SpaceX CRS-18 spacecraft last week on August 27.
For those who are unaware, the CIMON robot was made by Airbus and IBM along with the collaboration of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). It is a floating computer that was described as a flying brain by members of the Airbus team. This AI-powered device which runs on is designed to interact with astronauts while behaving like a regular member of the crew.
According to Christian Karrasch, CIMON Project Manager at DLR, the technology demonstration of CIMON has completely met their expectations. He explained that during its 90-minute mission with the German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst on the ISS in November 2018, it was able to function well in microgravity conditions and can interact successfully with astronauts.
“With CIMON, we were able to lay the foundations for human assistance systems in space to support astronauts in their tasks and perhaps, in the future, to take over some of their work,” Karrasch said in a statement.
According to him, the mission went so well that the team has started developing an advanced version of the AI robot. The DLR statement states that the German agency is working with the European Space Agency (ESA) to deliver the new CIMON to the ISS in December this year for further testing with astronauts.
The next-generation CIMON will also be built by Airbus on behalf of DLR. It will be funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy.
The Airbus project manager Till Eisenberg has teased some of the several upgrades, including better microphones, a more robust computer, improved flight and attitude control, and new software features for conversation, such as speech recognition, call history, and intent analysis.