CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile CompanioN) is a DLR Space Administration/European Space Agency (ESA) project to explores the use of artificial intelligence in space. The intent is to try to mitigate crew stress and workload during long-term spaceflight.
The AI-based assistant for astronauts CIMON is being developed by Airbus in cooperation with IBM and will be tested on the International Space Station (ISS) by Alexander Gerst during the European Space Agency’s Horizons mission between June and October 2018.
“In short, CIMON will be the first AI-based mission and flight assistance system,” said Manfred Jaumann, Head of Microgravity Payloads from Airbus. “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.” Pioneering work was also being done in the area of manufacturing, Jaumann continued, with the entire structure of CIMON, which is made up of plastic and metal, created using 3D printing.
CIMON is designed to support astronauts in performing routine work, for example by displaying procedures or – thanks to its ‘neural’ AI network and its ability to learn – offering solutions to problems. It uses Watson AI technology from the IBM cloud and, with its face, voice and artificial intelligence, becomes a genuine ‘colleague’ on board. With CIMON, crew members can do more than just work through a schematic view of prescribed checklists and procedures; they can also engage with their assistant. In this way, CIMON makes work easier for the astronauts when carrying out every day routine tasks, helps to increase efficiency, facilitates mission success and improves security, as it can also serve as an early warning system for technical problems.
Fans of cheesy 1980's American television sci-fi will undoubtedly remember Dr. Theopolis from the hit series Buck Rogers. For those not in the know, Dr. Theopolis took the form of a sort of circular medallion; he was an artificial intelligence. He was carried around by Twiki, a small comic relief side kick robot; their exchanges were legendary.