Alexander Gerst is a German astronaut and geophysicist for the European Space Agency (ESA) and commander of the space station’s 57th mission. He assisted in creating a healthy but very moody robot. There are still some bugs to be worked out including its strong personality.
Gerst is in charge of the other astronauts and an 11 lb 3D-printed plastic ball known as CIMON or Crew Interactive Mobile Companion. CIMON was developed by Airbus for the German Space Agency. It runs on a version of IBM Watson’s artificial intelligence, has a video-screen face, cameras, and a digital voice so it can talk with the astronauts.
At some point, CIMON will be used to display and explain information that’s needed to carry out experiments and repairs. It’s still in its early stage so for, now, its sole purpose is to be a friend to Gerst.
When CIMON was brought to the space station for the first test on November 15, it responded to commands like “Wake up, CIMON”, asking in a way that can only be described as a chirpy tone “What can I do for you?”
In a video that was just recently published by the European Space Agency and then posted to Gerst’s Twitter account, CIMON successfully recognized Gerst’s face, could turn 90° on command, and help Gerst with an experiment.
CIMON is a little sensitive today”. The goal of the creators is for CIMON to develop more personality.
Watch the video below:
If you wonder if this is directly out of a sci-fi movie, the answer is not yet but a successful first technology demonstration of a DLR experiment, designed to test what a future human-robot interaction might be like in space, yes! On top of that, CIMON also plays Kraftwerk on command. During the last observation, CIMON dialed up “The Man-Machine from the album of the same name by the German electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk when Gerst asked it to play his favorite song.
Moving forward, CIMON acknowledged Gerst’s commands to stop playing music and start taking videos instead of its front camera. Then, at one point CIMON said “Let’s sing along with those favorite hits.” When Gerst told CIMON to stop playing music, it sounded a bit petulant replying “I love music you can dance to. “All right favorite hits incoming”.
Gerst explained that even though CIMON is playing the requested video stream, it was still talking about music and then floated back to the position in the cabin that it prefers.
In a softer voice, it says “Be nice. Please.” Then a moment later asks “Don’t you like it here with me?” It also responded “Don’t be so mean, please” which is eery, because it sounded way too much like HAL 9000 in 2001 A Space Odyssey” with “I can already hear your stomach roaring. Should we take a look for when it is time for food?"
Before stopping the test run, Gerst said that CIMON is a little sensitive today”. The goal of the creators is for CIMON to develop more personality.