Tuesday , May 18 2021

In Video Debbie, CIMON ISS Robot throws unexpected lunacy

ISS CIMON robot.
GIF: ESA / Gizmodo

In terms of improper behavior, we are not quite at HAL 9000 levels quite yet – but during the debut demonstration of the new robot with the help of AI, CIMON, the free-float device displayed some suspicious behavior.

CIMON, short for Crew Interactive MObile companion, is the first interactive summer companion who participated in the ISS mission. A $ 6 million ($ 6 million) robot was built by Airbus under an agreement granted by the German Airspace (DLR). The goal of the project is to see if an artificial intelligent bot can improve crew and morale efficiency during longer missions, including a possible Mars mission.

CIMON has no weapons or legs, but there are some smart plugins with AI and user interface in natural language. The 3D-printed robot has 12 internal fans, which allow it to move in multiple directions while floating in the conditions of microgravity of the space. The bot can display instructions on its screen, record video, play music, and even search for objects.

CIMON was shipped to the ISS in late June, and finally we are able to see this bot in action, thanks to the new video from the European Space Agency (ESA).

The video shows the first interactions of CIMON on ISS – let's say it's still rough around the edges.

The first things go initially, as German astronaut Alexander Gerst, with NASA astronaut Serena Aujon-Cancellor, looks at CIMON some basic questions. CIMON tells Gerst, allegedly, his name and where he is, and also demonstrates his ability to bend his robotic face. After aiding in scientific action, CIMON releases Gerst's favorite song on request, Kraftwerk's Man-Machine. Very nice choice.

But then, at about 4:08 mark of the video, CIMON starts to act a little squirrely. Beyond this point, the demonstration looks like a shot made by 2001: Space Odyssey, with CIMON playing part of HAL 9000 and Gerst like David Bowman.

Not wanting to move the past musical regime, CIMON accused Gerst of not being nice and asking him to stop being so mean. The shared view between Gerst and Auñón-Chancellor at this moment – in sign 6:04 – is absolutely priceless. Acting as a three-year old, Cimon asks: "Do not you like me here with me?" And immediately begins to sink to the deck. And then he asks the crew when it's time for lunch.

Okay, not the most freelance debut.

Despite CIMON's unpredictable behavior and sudden flying, however, Gerst praised the robot's ability to float motionless in the cabin. It's still early days for the project, but CIMON provides at least a few comics. In fact, as part of his mission, CIMON should keep the morale of the crew high, so in that sense it is already successful through its unexpected shenanigans.

Well, at least until CIMON has locked Gerst off the ISS during his next space journey.


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