English-speaking Robot Sent to Space to Support Astronauts

Published July 2nd, 2018 - 05:00 GMT
CIMON 'Flying Brain' Designed To Follow German Astronaut. (Twitter/ NASA)
CIMON 'Flying Brain' Designed To Follow German Astronaut. (Twitter/ NASA)

A science fiction-inspired robot hardwired to assist astronauts launched from Florida to become the first personal, artificial intelligence-powered companion in space. 

The robot named “CIMON” or (Crew Interactive Mobile Companion), is an English-speaking droid roughly the size of a basketball that will help German astronaut Alexander Gerst conduct experiments on the International Space Station.

Matthias Biniok, an engineer for chip maker IBM and one of the architects behind CIMON, told Reuters: “What we’re trying to do with CIMON is to increase the efficiency of the astronaut.”

CIMON will verbally communicate step-by-step instructions to Gerst during three planned science experiments on the space station. Currently, astronauts read these instructions from a laptop, which Biniok says is an arduous process that a responsive, hands-free companion like CIMON can replace. 

“Right now our main mission is to support the astronauts with their daily tasks to save time, because time is the most valuable and most expensive thing on the International Space Station,” Biniok said. CIMON will return to Earth on Dec. 13. 

Biniok said the concept of CIMON was inspired by a 1940s science fiction comic series set in space, where a robot named Professor Simon mentors an astronaut named Captain Future.

CIMON also parallels HAL, the sentient computer in Stanley Kubrick’s movie, “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

This article has been adapted from its original source.

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