A ‘flying brain’ is heading for the ISS
Airbus has been working on a clever robotic virtual assistant for the International Space Station
The Space Station is getting a new crew member, but it's not quite what you'd expect. Instead, the
Crew Interactive Mobile Companion (CIMON) is a floating drone that not only presents a friendly face to human astronauts, but displays data readouts wherever it may be needed.
Its makers are calling it “a kind of flying brain” and it's not too dissimilar to the intelligent companions seen in various sci-fi films and TV shows. In fact, it's on the same lines as HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey and Holly in Red Dwarf. Developed by Airbus and IBM and made of 3D-printed plastic and metal, it is the size of a medicine ball and it weighs around five kilograms.
The drone will use Watson artificial intelligence to help the ISS crew solve problems while engaging verbally with them and flagging up technical problems. “In short, CIMON will be the first AI-based mission and flight assistance system,” said Manfred Jaumann, head of microgravity payloads at Airbus, with a statement from the company adding it will become a “genuine colleague”.
CIMON is currently being tested by ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst who is set to return to the ISS for the Horizon's mission between
June and October. He will take the drone with him and make use of a selected range of capabilities, but the medium-term aim is to examine the group effects that can develop during long missions, such as to the Moon or Mars.
Airbus says CIMON will make life easier for astronauts carrying out routine tasks