Crew Interactive Mobile Companion CIMON

The International Space Station has introduced its new companion AI, CIMON, through a video that wasn’t entirely reassuring… Via Gizmodo:

CIMON, short for Crew Interactive MObile companioN, is the first interactive flight companion to take part in an ISS mission.

The $US6 ($8) million, basketball-sized robot was built by Airbus under a contract awarded by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The purpose of the project is to see if an artificially intelligent bot can improve crew efficiency and morale during longer missions, including a possible mission to Mars. […]

Things go smoothly at first, as German astronaut Alexander Gerst, with NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor looking on, asks CIMON some basic questions. CIMON capably tells Gerst his name and where he’s from, while also demonstrating his ability to tilt his smirking robotic face. After helping out with a scientific procedure, CIMON plays Gerst’s favourite song on request, Kraftwerk’s “Man-Machine.” Very nice choice.

But then, at around the 4:08 mark of the video, CIMON starts to act a bit squirrely. Beyond this point, the demonstration looks like a scene taken from 2001: A Space Odyssey, with CIMON playing the part of HAL 9000 and Gerst as David Bowman.

Unwilling to move past music mode, CIMON accuses Gerst of not being nice, and asks him to stop being so mean. The shared glance between Gerst and Auñón-Chancellor at this point — at the 6:04 mark — is absolutely priceless. Acting like a three-year old, CIMON asks, “Don’t you like it here with me?” and promptly starts to sink towards the deck. And then he asks the crew when it’s time for lunch.

OK, so not the smoothest debut.

Despite CIMON’s erratic behaviour and wonky drifting, however, Gerst complimented the robot’s ability to float motionless in the cabin. It’s still early days for the project, but CIMON is providing some comic relief at the very least. Indeed, as part of his mission, CIMON is supposed to the keep the crew’s morale high, so in this sense he’s already succeeded through his unexpected shenanigans.

Well, at least until CIMON locks Gerst outside the ISS during his next spacewalk.

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