A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched to the Worldwide Area Station (ISS) within the wee hours Friday morning. The unmanned mission will deliver new provided and devices to the station, together with one thing a bit… completely different. A floating robotic head known as CIMON (Crew Interactive Cell Companion) will quickly be buzzing across the ISS.

CIMON is a venture from German Aerospace Heart, Airbus, and IBM. The floating head will arrive on the station on Monday because the autonomous Dragon capsule hyperlinks up with the crew. At its most elementary degree, CIMON will act as a flying digital camera. Utilizing followers and maneuvering fins, CIMON will zip across the station to function a digital camera to watch experiments and repairs.

This robotic doesn’t have a physique, however IBM appeared eager to keep away from any direct HAL 9000 comparisons. Slightly than an unsettling crimson eye, CIMON has a nice face adorning a big show on the entrance (if a spherical robotic has a entrance). It weighs in at 11 kilos (5 kg) and is slightly bigger than a human head.

Astronaut Alexander Gerst will conduct all of the preliminary testing of CIMON — CIMON was truly educated to acknowledge Gerst’s voice and look. Throughout their time collectively, the pair will conduct three procedures. The human and robotic will work collectively to unravel a Rubik’s Dice. That’s enjoyable, however the robotic may even assist with an experiment on crystal formation in house. It is going to additionally help Gerst on a posh medical experiment by appearing as a digital camera relay.

CIMON realized to acknowledge individuals.

This robotic is greater than a flying digital camera — it will probably additionally chat with the crew utilizing IBM’s Watson AI. It understands pure language and might reply to many queries. It additionally learns over time to grow to be extra helpful to ISS crew. The AI has been tuned to grasp house lingo and customary points that pop up aboard an area station. IBM believes that CIMON’s presence and talent to make small discuss may even assist astronauts address the stress of spaceflight. For instance, if CIMON thinks an astronaut is expressing a eager for dwelling, it will probably reply in a extra “sympathetic” voice.

There are not any plans to deliver CIMON again to Earth. IBM hopes the floating AI head will stay lively on the ISS for years to return, the place it would assist conduct experiments and take heed to everybody’s issues. Somebody simply has to recollect to recharge it from time to time.