Hey Siri, send apologies to Alexa and commiserations to Cortana because a brand new AI assistant is on the scene — and he’s quite literally out of this world!
CIMON has had to boldly go where no AI assistant has gone before: space
Meet CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile CompaniON). This free-floating Ubuntu-based cyber colleague has been designed to “mitigate” the stresses of, and share the work during, long-term spaceflight.
And to do that he’s had to boldly go where no AI assistant has gone before: space.
CIMON – the AI Assistant for Astronauts
CIMON is an autonomous, AI-powered assistant that can see, hear, understand and speak with astronauts thanks to a slate of on-board cameras, microphones, sensors and processors.
Twelve internal fans give him full directional mobility, including the ability to nod or shake his head.
He’s voice-controlled too, meaning astronauts are free to perform tasks and conduct experiments with both hands while remaining fully able to access, interface and command their cyber colleague as they need to.
CIMON can present and explain a range of detailed information, including steps required in an experiment steps, repair instructions, and answers to questions.
He can also perform routine tasks like searching for objects or documenting the results of experiments which take place onboard the station.
What’s particularly unique about CIMON is that he’s also designed to fulfil a more social role, hence the animated human face writ across his 8-inch display.
CIMON Runs on Ubuntu
The AI-powered smart assistant, developed by Airbus in co-operation with IBM, is currently being tested by the German Space Administration (DLR) and the European Space Agency (ESA) aboard the International Space Station, under the stewardship of German astronaut Dr Alexander Gerst.
As you’ll glimpse at various points in the following video, CIMON runs on Ubuntu:
Ubuntu isn’t alone, of course. The regular earthly cloud also plays a big role in powering CIMON’s smarts.
The majority of AI work takes place up the cloud using IBM Watson for the language comprehension system. This earthly link may seem antiquated by comparison but it has its upsides: bods down on earth can update, upgrade and make the assistant smarter at any moment.
Ubuntu is no stranger to life aboard the International Space Station. The distro is used in a variety of space-faring tasks, from powering laptops aboard the ISS to controlling high-tech rovers back down on earth.