Robot with artificial intelligence about to invade space

June 28, 2018 by Marcia Dunn
Robot with artificial intelligence about to invade space
This Jan. 30, 2018 photo provided by the German Aerospace Center shows the "Cimon" (Crew Interactive MObile companioN) robot during a communications test at the ESA European Astronaut Center in Cologne-Porz, Germany. The round, artificial intelligence robot is part of SpaceX's latest delivery to the International Space Station. Liftoff is set for early Friday, June 29, 2018, from Cape Canaveral, Fla. In the background from left are project leaders Christian Karrasch, Till Eisenberg and Christoph Kossl. (T. Bourry/ESA/DLR via AP)

A robot with true artificial intelligence is about to invade space.

The large, round, plastic robot head is part of SpaceX's latest supply delivery to the International Space Station.

Friday's pre-dawn liftoff also includes two sets of genetically identical female mice, 20 mousestronauts that will pick up where NASA's identical twin brother astronauts left off a few years ago. Super-caffeinated coffee is also flying up for the space station's java-craving crew.

As intriguing as identical space siblings and turbo-charged space coffee may be, it's the German robot—named Cimon, pronounced Simon, after a genius doctor in science fiction's "Captain Future"—that's stealing the show.

Don't worry about AI running amok on the space station. Cimon's human handlers promise the first AI space bot will behave. No mutinous takeovers like HAL from the 1968 film classic "2001: A Space Odyssey."

"He's a friendly guy and he has this hard power-off button," German Space Agency physicist Christian Karrasch, the project manager, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Like HAL, the autonomous Cimon is an acronym: it stands for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion. Its AI brain is courtesy of IBM.

German astronaut Alexander Gerst, who arrived at the orbiting lab a month ago, will introduce Cimon to space life during three one-hour sessions. Already savvy about Gerst's science experiments, the self-propelling Cimon will float at the astronaut's side and help, when asked, with research procedures.

Cimon has Gerst's face and voice imprinted in its memory. So while the robot could assist the five other station astronauts, it is best suited for Gerst, according to Karrasch.

To get Cimon's attention, Gerst will need only to call its name. Their common language will be English, the official language of the space station.

Next year, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano will be Cimon's orbital master. That's when the AI researchers will delve more into mood.

As it is, Cimon smiles when it senses the conversation is upbeat and frowns when it's sad. A small screen on the sphere serves as its face.

During its open-ended stay on the space station, Cimon should grow ever smarter and more knowledgeable, its system updated via IBM's Cloud.

Researchers chose a ball rather than a humanoid face for Cimon because they thought it would be less potentially disturbing or creepy. Because it's perfectly round—a little bigger than a basketball—it's also safer, with no sharp edges that could damage space station equipment or poke astronauts.

The entire project, barely two years in the making, came in under 5 million Euros, or $5.8 million.

The real AI payoff will be when astronauts travel to the moon, Mars or other distant destinations. In a medical emergency, no one will want to wait 20 minutes for a call for help to reach Earth and then another 20 minutes for advice to get back to the stricken crew, said NASA's station program manager Kirk Shireman. An AI companion could provide instant assistance.

Cimon is meant for additional brainpower, so it doesn't have legs or arms. NASA's humanoid Robonaut, on the other hand, lacked AI but was envisioned as a Spiderman of sorts, its hands and feet designed for grabbing and climbing. Its creators saw Robonaut as a potential spacewalker, off in the future, that could venture outside for mundane tasks, saving considerable time and risk.

Robonaut is back on Earth. It returned aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule in May after long bouts of inactivity and wiring trouble. Once fixed, an improved Robonaut may fly back to the .

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8 comments

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rrwillsj
1 / 5 (2) Jun 29, 2018
As a perverse human being... I keep having these visions of one of the code-writing peons in their tiny cubicles, slipping into the programming an easter-egg.

Where every so often, when in the presence of people. At random intervals. The little-robot-that-could will spontaneously start rolling in a circle. Wildly waving it's appendages around. While loudly playing a recording of: "Warning! Will Robinson! Warning!"

Yes, yes indeed. I am a bad, baaahhdd man! Destined to come to a sad ending...

Oh wait, I'm already reduced to posting comments on the Physdotorg site.

{sigh}
BendBob
1 / 5 (2) Jun 29, 2018
Since the ordering articles had the story about How your smart fridge might be mining bitcoin for criminals, my first thought was that those silly robot toys will be mining also. T
Tangent2
not rated yet Jun 30, 2018
And right on cue, the HAL reference steps in.

Did anyone else get that "Moon" movie vibe with the design?
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
not rated yet Jul 01, 2018
I would have much preferred that the round robot head be named after "Data" whose human "father" was Doctor Soong. It just seems more esthetically pleasing and evokes memories of the popular TV series and how Data longed to be more human-like. This AI is not good for much else than to learn, collate, retain and filter information fed into it, and give feedback. At some point, depending on its capacity, it may have enough medical expertise to give medical advice for simple human problems such as headaches.
Without limbs/hands it could never perform an operation of any type. On Earth. AI are performing surgical procedures while human surgeons control the robotic hands. But it's not like the robots are completely autonomous and have no need for humans.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
1 / 5 (1) Jul 01, 2018
As a perverse human being... I keep having these visions of one of the code-writing peons in their tiny cubicles, slipping into the programming an easter-egg.

Where every so often, when in the presence of people. At random intervals. The little-robot-that-could will spontaneously start rolling in a circle. Wildly waving it's appendages around. While loudly playing a recording of: "Warning! Will Robinson! Warning!"

Yes, yes indeed. I am a bad, baaahhdd man! Destined to come to a sad ending...

Oh wait, I'm already reduced to posting comments on the Physdotorg site.

{sigh}

says rrw

Still indulging in self-disparaging, I see. Well, at least you haven't thought of blowing up the White House. (I'm assuming).
rrwillsj
3 / 5 (2) Jul 01, 2018
Ahh, Servilent_Eggplant_Unicycle. Naw, I don't actually have to do a damn thing except have the popcorn ready. As that senile buffoon, the Bogus POTUS and his clown posse of lickspittle lackeys do the destruction for me.

Sometimes, you just can't stop stupid from jumping off the edge of the cliff to find out what's below!

And it is interesting you uttering that threat. I've been noticing among the trumpposers, that every time they start wailling about how bad Hilary or Barack or Maxine are? Is when some trumpeting villain is exposed for their sordid crimes. treason and pederasty.

So, S_E_U, when does your name come up on the indictments?
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
1 / 5 (1) Jul 02, 2018
@rrw
In another reality, you would have had Hillary Clinton, who is obviously a mother-figure to you and millions of other screaming little byotches and girly-men, as your presidential witch-in-residence at the White House, where her husband, Bill made sure to handle as many vaginas as possible before the Hill entered the Oval Office with one of her BFFs in tow. Which is most likely the big reason for Bill's unwanted amorous advances toward his female sexual victims while Hillary and her woman were doing the nasty in the Lincoln bedroom.
Your idol, Barack O has purchased the house he was renting in D.C. pretending to live there only until younger daughter, Sasha graduated high school. He is now a permanent resident of D.C. and is just a few blocks from the White House, which he probably believes that he will, again. occupy that building.
And Maxine? Well, Maxine is a hoot, and as daft as a seacow in heat. Those 3 are your loves, and it would be a shame for you to never meet them.
rrwillsj
3 / 5 (2) Jul 02, 2018
While listing russian inspired and paid, faux-news goebbel's-style agitprop of alleged accusations against the Clintons?

I noticed that you being a typical altright fairytail coward are too frighten to confront trump's long sordid history of multiple criminal indictments for sexual crimes against women and children.

Obama's living in DC? Great, so that there will be an adult available. For when the dumpster fire and his toady fake-christian VP Pennyante come crashing down in one great infantile tantrum.

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