Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has progressed in virtually every sector in the world. AI has made leaps and businesses have redesigned their models. From law to smartphone manufacturing, every sector has been impacted with emergence and application of AI. Leading tech giants have provided AI assistants in their smartphones. Alexa, Siri, and others have been assisting users by recognizing speech and performing desired actions such as booking a table or searching a place to purchase a nice perfume. Moreover, Russian tech firm Yandex has developed an AI assistant Alice, which gives sassier responses over the polite ones. It makes sassy remarks instead of offering empathy and support. AI assistants are not limited to smartphones only. Airbus has collaborated with IBM to develop an AI assistant to help astronauts in space stations and missions.
CIMON (Crew Interactive MObile CompanioN), an AI-based assistant is in development phase and will help space flight crew at DLR Space Administration. The AI assistant is medicine ball-sized and weighs 5 Kg. Alexander Gerst, from ISS Watson AI, IBM’s artificial technology division will test the technology during June and October 2018. The testing will be conducted during European Space Agency’s Horizon mission. CIMON is manufactured using 3D printing technology and materials used are plastic and metal. Commenting on the release, Manfred Jaumann, the Head of Microgravity Payloads from Airbus, said, “In short, CIMON will be the first AI-based mission and flight assistance system. We are the first company in Europe to carry a free flyer, a kind of flying brain, to the ISS and to develop artificial intelligence for the crew on board the space station.”
CIMON is developed to help astronauts perform routine tasks, show procedures, and provide solutions. The neural network installed in the AI assistant enables it to learn and provide solutions to problems. Watson AI technology is implemented along with voice, face, and artificial intelligence in the assistant to assist astronauts in a way a colleague assists. Flight crew will carry out tasks efficiently, improve security, and facilitate mission success. The AI assistant also plays a role as an early warning system if any technical problems occur.
The collaboration between Airbus and IBM has resulted in development of first of its kind AI assistant for space missions. Airbus tested the concept of AI assistant as a part of self-financed study. DLR Space Administration gave a permission to aerospace experts of Airbus to conduct this project. Since then, a team of 50 members from Airbus, IBM, DLR, and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich (LMU) has been working on the project.
CIMON has been trained with the help of voice samples and photos of Alexander Gerst. Moreover, plans and procedures of the Columbus module has been loaded in the database. After completion of fundamental testing, Gerst would work with CIMON in space for three times. They will conduct experiment with crystals, solve Rubik’s cube, and carry out a complex medical experiment with the help of ‘flying’ camera in CIMON. The interactions between human and machines, in this case, between astronauts and AI assistant will be crucial in success of long term missions. The development of such systems for space will lead to development of AI system for social care and hospitals.