A new crew member joined the International Space Station, and it is not human. Sounds like science fiction. At Aspioneer we can assure you such is not the case.
Meet CIMON, HAL9000’s second cousin
Meet CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile CompaniON). This free-floating Ubuntu-based cyber colleague has been designed to “mitigate” the stresses of, and share the work during, long-term spaceflight.
CIMON is an autonomous, AI-powered assistant that can see, hear, understand and speak with astronauts thanks to a slate of on-board cameras, microphones, sensors and processors.
CIMON weighs approximately 5 kilograms and can navigate inside the ISS with help of 12 directional fans. The weightless environment of ISS negates the need for managing the weight of the device.
Like SIRI and Cortana, CIMON also features voice control, allowing ISS members to use its abilities without touching it. This frees astronauts to do other tasks which require the opposable thumbs of a human being.
CIMON can present and explain a range of detailed information, including steps required in an experiment steps, repair instructions, and answers to questions. It can also perform routine tasks like searching for objects or documenting the results of experiments which take place on board the station. CIMON is also designed to fulfill a more social role, hence the animated human face writ across his 8-inch display.
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The AI bot is developed by Airbus in co-operation with IBM, and is currently being tested by the German Space Administration and the European Space Agency (ESA) aboard the International Space Station, under the stewardship of German astronaut Dr Alexander Gerst.
What is interesting about CIMON is that it is powered by Ubuntu. A major part of its magic is powered by IBM Watson for the language comprehension system. The best part of having this kind of earthly approach is that it can be easily update by flesh-lings on earth as needed. Ubuntu is quite popular is on the International Space Station. The distribution is used in a variety of space-faring tasks, from powering laptops aboard the ISS to controlling high-tech rovers back down on earth.