Flying AI assistant to work with an astronaut on the ISS | Urania

The AI-controlled flying balloon will work with European astronaut Matthias Maurer to conduct science experiments aboard the International Space Station ISS and … provide educational services from orbit.

New quests for the interactive astronaut assistant! CIMON-2 is already waiting for the ISS on Matthias Maurer, which is due to fly into space this fall with Crew-3 as part of the Cosmic Kiss mission. The German space agency DLR and Airbus have signed a contract to carry out this orbital mission in cooperation with four partners (living, human).

After a successful demonstration of the possibilities of new technologies with astronauts Alexander Gerst (CIMON-1, November 2018) and Luci Parmitano (CIMON-2, February 2020), the focus will now be on the operational and scientific use of technology CIMON. Thanks to the pilot study entitled “Human interaction with Al and CIMON”, the assistant itself will therefore become an object of research. They will cover other activities supporting the routine work of an astronaut and documenting complex scientific tasks.

In these tasks, CIMON will for the first time guide a complete experimental procedure. In practice, this means that it will carry out documentation in accordance with the individual wishes of scientists and/or staff. In addition, CIMON-2 must provide scientific support for the educational experiment “Three-dimensional kinetic theory of gases”. This theory explains the properties of gases according to the thesis that they consist of a very large number of small particles in constant motion.

The contract between the DLR and Airbus provides such cosmic support to four astronauts by providing them with a complete data set allowing a reliable analysis of the potential of CIMON-2. Knowledge gained during new assignments will help prepare the assistant for much more complex work in the future. Currently, CIMON-2 is being upgraded: it is receiving new software packages, and Airbus engineers are developing new scientific procedures and adapting the assistant to new safety standards.

More interestingly, CIMON-2 “learns” German as a second language. He will use it during educational activities carried out from orbit, for example in a quiz for students and during a visit to the ISS with astronaut Maurer, explaining the secrets of the station’s operation.

The CIMON Interactive Astronaut Assistant was developed and built by Airbus employees in Friedrichshafen and Bremen for the German Center for Space Administration (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt – DLR). Its creation was funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Voice-enabled artificial intelligence is provided by IBM Cloud’s AI Watson technology. Scientists from the Ludwig Maximilian University Hospital in Munich (LMU), in turn, helped develop and oversee the human aspects of the support system. Biotesc from the University of Lucerne is responsible for the operation of AI CIMON in the Columbus ISS module and supports the interaction of astronauts with an Earth helper.

In the picture: How does CIMON-2 work? Source: Airbus Defense and Space

CIMON is a technological experiment aimed at supporting astronauts and increasing the efficiency of their work. The assistant is able to show and explain information and instructions about ongoing science experiments and repairs. Its advantage is voice-controlled access to documents and media, which allows astronauts to have both hands free. CIMON can also be used as a mobile camera to save the crew time. In particular, it can be used to perform routine tasks such as documenting experiments, finding objects, and taking inventory.

CIMON orients itself through its “eyes” – a stereo and high-definition camera that it uses for facial recognition, and two other side cameras that it uses to take photos and videos. Ultrasonic sensors measure distances to other objects to avoid potential collisions. CIMON’s “ears” are eight directional microphones and an additional directional microphone to improve voice recognition. An assistant’s “mouth” is a speaker through which they can speak or play music. At the heart of the artificial intelligence that enables the robot to understand human speech is IBM Cloud’s Watson AI technology.

CIMON does not have a self-learning function – it requires active human-led teaching. AI technology for autonomous navigation was provided by Airbus. It is used for traffic planning and object recognition. The CIMON moves freely and rotates in all directions thanks to its 12 internal rotors. They allow the assistant to face the astronaut, nod and shake their head, and follow the astronaut, alone or on command.

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Source: Airbus Defense and Space

Prepared by: Elżbieta Kuligowska

Pictured: Ready for new tasks and new partners: CIMON-2 aboard the International Space Station ISS. Source: DLR/ESA

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