Airbus published the findings of early tests of CIMON-2 on the International Space Station (ISS) and hints its next use to lessen stress originating from isolation or group dynamics during long-term missions. In the future, CIMON-2 AI could be useful to address the same issues on Earth, during a lock-down due to pandemic or calamities.
An updated variant of CIMON astronaut assistant, produced and manufactured by Airbus for the German Aerospace Center Space Administration (DLR), has now shown its capacities through first tests on the International Space Station (ISS). The free-flying, round AI tool proved its peculiarities when utilized by ESA cosmonaut Luca Parmitano.
Project CIMON-2 started on 05 December 2019 and is estimated to work on the ISS for up to three years. So far, several tests conducted on CIMON-2 displayed its self-governing flight abilities, voice-controlled operation, and capacity to learn and perform different assignments.
CIMON-2 can move to an exact place inside the ISS Columbus module following verbal instructions, ignorant of its starting point. For instance, ESA’s Astronaut Luca Parmitano commanded CIMON-2 to travel to the Biological Experiment Laboratory (Biolab) inside the Columbus module.
Amongst additional tests, CIMON-2 has prooven ready to take photos and videos on demand. Using its potentials, CIMON-2 will perform planned scientific experiments on the ISS.
Designed and manufactured in Germany, CIMON’s principal function is to assist cosmonauts and enhance their performances. CIMON can display and describe data and guidance for scientific tests and patches. CIMON-2 has not been implemented with self-learning capacities and needs active human guidance.
The AI needed for language comprehension is IBM Watson AI technology from IBM Cloud. Airbus provides AI employed for self-governing flying, movement preparation, and object identification. Twelve inner rotors enable CIMON to move and twist easily in all courses. Astronauts voice control the tool to access to documents and media as well as record images with its mobile camera, saving time.
AI installed on CIMON-2 may understand distress in speech and display empathy when communicating with the cosmonauts. Also, the project proposes to study whether AI assistants could aid lessen strain. CIMON’s next versions should relieve cosmonauts from the physical workload of operations, thereby decreasing their vulnerability to stress.
Project CIMON could set the roots for social support systems designed to reduce stress arising from loneliness or group dynamics throughout long-term activities. The new technology might also be beneficial in tackling similar problems on Earth.
Project CIMON began in August 2016, and the prototype flew onboard the ISS from 02 July 2018 to 27 August 2019. CIMON’s name is evocative of ‘Professor Simon Wright’, the robotic assistant – or the ‘flying brain’ – from the fiction series ‘Captain Future.’
The project involves the German Aerospace Center Space Administration (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt -DLR), Airbus, IBM, Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich (LMU) and the ESA User Support Centre Biotesc in Lucerne (Switzerland), and funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.
CIMON’s first release featured a stereo camera and a high-resolution camera for facial recognition and two cameras to the sides. Ultrasound sensors sighted distances to prevent crashes, and eight microphones to recognize tracks. Further equipment included a directional receiver to enhance speech identification, and an integrated speaker talks or plays music.
CIMON-2 version features more fine-tuned microphones and a superior understanding of direction. Manufacturers have improved CIMON’s AI capacities, its software applications, and the autonomy of the battery, which increased by around 30%.