A More Emotional, CIMON 2 Returns To The ISS Thursday

AI-enabled assistant robot returning to the Space Station with improved emotional intelligence		
		
	Darrell Etherington

			@etherington	 
		8 hours

An intelligent robot equipped with emotion-sensing voice detectors was headed to the International Space Station after launching from Florida on Thursday, becoming the latest artificial intelligence-powered astronaut workmate in orbit. But CIMON is much more than an Alexa for space, and CIMON-2, which launched aboard today's SpaceX ISS resupply mission, will demonstrate a number of ways the astronaut support robot can help those working in space - from both a practical and an emotional angle.

Now, following a reboot, a second version of the floating basketball-sized robot has just returned to the orbiting space station. It will be an AI-powered flying robot called CIMON-2, a successor to the experimental CIMON robot that made its debut past year. "You get a little bit insane, seeing earth only as a dot in the sky", said Biniok.

'The connection between an astronaut and CIMON is largely necessary'.

Non-robots hold CIMON-2 before the start.

Similar in shape to CIMON-1 with a spherical shape, slight smile and ability to move around the ISS, CIMON-2 is meant to be on the floating laboratory "for up to three years", Biniok noted.

Ultimately, CIMON 2 demonstrates how technology doesn't have to be practical to advance exploration, wherever or whatever that may be.

"Its AI capabilities and the stability of its complex software applications have also been significantly improved". "During this mission, we are also considering further steps, such as uploading the AI to a cloud on the ISS".

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Like its predecessor, CIMON-2 will float around the Columbus European research module and, unless it antagonises astronauts, will remain on board the ISS for three years.

"The astronaut has control over CIMON at all times", LMU researcher Judith Buchheim said in September, "which was especially important for us".

CIMON-2 and the original CIMON robot look like floating spheres with one flattened side. "This allows CIMON-2 to transition from a scientific assistant into an empathetic companion, as required".

CIMON's creators said they had been inspired by a 1940s science fiction comic series set in space, where a sentient, brain-shaped robot named Professor Simon guides the astronaut Captain Future. He can even nod and shake his head - which is essentially all CIMON's body consists of. CIMON can read experimental procedures, record video, and even have simple conversations with astronauts. He can also document experiments, search for items and take inventory.

And programmers have this time promised a more friendly, conversational version, capable of analysing the astronauts' emotions and acting in an appropriate manner.

"Studies show that demanding tasks are less stressful if they're done in cooperation with a colleague", Biniok said. CIMON 1 was trained to identify Gerst via facial and speech recognition.

"On a journey to the Moon or Mars, the crew would be able to rely on an AI-based assistance service, without a permanent data link to Earth", Christian Karrasch, CIMON project manager with DLR, added in the blog post. "One specific application for Earth, for instance, would be helping people to perform complex tasks in areas with poor infrastructure".

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