Watson is coming to the International Space Station. The artificial intelligence out of IBM has found a partner in the European Airbus to create an AI meant specifically for living on the ISS. It's known as the Crew Interactive Mobile Companion or short for CIMON.
“In short, CIMON will be the first AI-based mission and flight assistance system,” says Manfred Jaumann, Head of Microgravity Payloads from Airbus in a press statement. “We are the first company in Europe to carry a free flyer, a kind of flying brain, to the ISS and to develop artificial intelligence for the crew on board the space station.”
CIMON is about the size of a medicine ball and weighs 5kgs. Its entire structure, made up of plastic and metal, was created using 3D printing.
CIMON has been built with one specific astronaut in mind from the beginning. Airbus worked with German astronaut Alexander Gerst to train CIMON to recognise his voice to the AI's graphic interface.
After CIMON's functional testing is complete, the AI robot will be taken into space by Gerst where it will begin helping him in three test runs: experimenting with crystals, working together to solve a Rubik's cube and performing a complex medical experiment using CIMON as a flying camera.
The AI robot will have limited features in its initial voyage into space, which could come as early as next month. Its basic testing will consist of optimising what is known as GNC algorithms (guidance, navigation and control). The researchers have hope that it, or some equivalent, would be able to accompany astronauts on longer journeys into space in the near future.
If CIMON can get the Rubik's cube down with Gerst, then it will be one step closer to becoming a sidekick for future astronauts everywhere.