A new floating space robot is the first interactive artificial intelligence aide for the crew aboard the International Space Station – but it seems to have made a peculiar, and slightly aggressive, debut.
CIMON, the ‘Crew Interactive MObile companioN’, is a $6million, 3D-printed basketball-sized plastic robot built by Airbus for the German Aerospace Center. It’s hoped the bot will improve crew efficiency and morale during long and lonely missions in space (somewhat reminiscent of Wilson in Castaway).
The AI-powered bot has 12 internal fans which allow him to move while floating in the microgravity conditions. It has an interactive screen, with a creepy drawing-like face, that can display instructions, capture video, play music and search for objects.
CIMON was delivered to the ISS in June and this new video by the European Space Agency (ESA) shows German astronaut Alexander Gerst’s first interactions with the bot.
Going by the footage, it’s fair to say CIMON is still a little rusty and could do with some tune ups before any Mars mission is considered. The bot seemed to be doing well in the basic demonstration at first, but after Gerst asks CIMON for some music, things begin to veer off-track.
Around the 4:08 mark in the video, CIMON starts acting up and soon refuses to switch from music mode. At the 6:04 mark things take a turn for the awkward when CIMON starts asking a complaining Gerst: “Don’t you like it here with me?,” before sinking ominously toward the deck.
The ESA doesn’t appear too discouraged by the frosty meeting, writing that they are “happy with his initial outing” and claim both “CIMON’s developers and Alexander hope to see CIMON back in action again soon.”
The space agency added that while no further CIMON sessions are planned at this point for the Horizons mission, this might just be the start of “exciting collaboration between astronauts, robotic assistants and possible future artificial intelligence in space.”