CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A science fiction-inspired robotic hardwired to help astronauts launched from Florida early Friday to turn out to be the primary private, synthetic intelligence-powered companion in area. 

Bret Greenstein of IBM holds a synthetic intelligence bot named CIMON, following a information convention on the Kennedy House Middle in Florida, U.S., June 28, 2018. Image taken on June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Joey Roulette

The Crew Interactive Cellular Companion, or CIMON, is an English-speaking droid roughly the scale of a basketball that can assist German astronaut Alexander Gerst conduct experiments on the Worldwide House Station. 

“What we’re attempting to do with CIMON is to extend the effectivity of the astronaut,” Matthias Biniok, an engineer for chip maker IBM (IBM.N) and one of many lead architects behind CIMON’s synthetic intelligence, advised Reuters. 

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CIMON will verbally talk step-by-step directions to Gerst throughout three deliberate science experiments on the area station’s European module. At the moment, astronauts learn these directions from a laptop computer, which Biniok says is an arduous course of responsive, hands-free companion like CIMON can change. 

“Proper now our primary mission is to assist the astronauts with their every day duties to avoid wasting time, as a result of time is probably the most precious and most costly factor on the ISS,” Biniok mentioned.


The German Aerospace Middle plans for CIMON to endure three one-hour classes to exhibit how nicely the robotic may help with experiments, like a crystal progress examine, a take a look at for its eight on-board cameras and an train to assist Gerst resolve a Rubik’s dice. 

CIMON will return to Earth on Dec. 13. 

Biniok mentioned the idea of CIMON was impressed by a 1940s science fiction comedian sequence set in area, the place a sentient, brain-shaped robotic named Professor Simon mentors an astronaut named Captain Future. CIMON additionally parallels HAL, the sentient laptop in Stanley Kubrick’s film, “2001: A House Odyssey.”

Philipp Schulien, a German engineer for CIMON’s contractor, Airbus (AIR.PA), mentioned extending astronauts’ skills in area is crucial for future area exploration journeys, just like the crewed missions to Mars which can be scheduled to take off as early as 2020. 

“There are particular results that may seem throughout long-term missions just like the so-called groupthink impact,” Schulien mentioned, citing a behavioral phenomenon during which people that spend prolonged durations of time in isolation are pushed to make irrational choices. “Lengthy, remoted teams are likely to cease speaking with the bottom,” he mentioned.

A robotic like CIMON with human-like personalities might assist mitigate the disorientation astronauts might really feel in area, Schulien mentioned. 

CIMON is amongst 5,900 kilos of cargo that launched to the Worldwide House Station on Friday, atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It’s scheduled to succeed in the station on Monday.

Reporting by Joey Roulette; modifying by Invoice Tarrant and Leslie Adler