CIMON says, “I’m back on Earth!”

The spherical AI robot spent a year on the ISS helping its crew
cimon A year in space taught researchers quite a bit about how AI can help astronauts. (Airbus/NASA)

Robots are everywhere these days. And often in places that you'd least expect. (Robo-stir fry, anyone?)

But one place where they really fit in? Outer space.

No surprise there. Robots and space exploration both belong in our boundary-pushing future. It's a perfect marriage.

Case in point: CIMON, or Crew Interactive MObile companioN. This joint project made by IBM and Airbus was sent to the International Space Station in June 2018 for the trial run as an assistant to the crew on board. And now, after 14 months, it's back on Earth.

So what does CIMON say about its year in space?

Only the beginning

CIMON's adventure was all about testing its capabilities in a real work environment. The findings? Though the robot is not yet ready to be fully relied upon as an assistant, this mission has taught its designers a lot about how it can be improved.

The spherical robot was designed to take advantage of microgravity by essentially floating through the space station and moving with tiny jets. It can speak, understand commands, give instructions, play music, record videos, and display information on a screen. In this way, it's actually quite similar to other AI robots here on Earth. (Not to mention Japan's Int-ball, a very similar floating space robot.)

Scientists are already finishing up an improved model that they hope to send back up to the ISS in December. In the meantime, watch this video of ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst working with CIMON last November.

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