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05 December 2019
05. December 2019 Space

Astronaut assistant CIMON-2 is on its way to the International Space Station

Human-machine interaction and artificial intelligence in space New technology demonstrator with improved 鈥榮ense of direction鈥 and 鈥榚mpathy鈥

CIMON 2    

Cape Canaveral, 5聽December 2019 鈥 A new CIMON for the International Space Station (ISS): CIMON-2 (Crew Interactive MObile companioN) lifted off on its journey into space on 5聽December 2019. This modified version of the astronaut assistant has been equipped for new tasks and was developed and built in Germany. Like its predecessor, CIMON-2 will be deployed in the Columbus European research module. CIMON is a free-flying, spherical technology demonstrator for human-machine interaction and features artificial intelligence.

鈥淐IMON-1 鈥 our prototype 鈥 landed back on Earth on 27聽August 2019 after spending 14聽months on the ISS, and has now arrived at AG真人计划 in Friedrichshafen,鈥 says Dr Christian Karrasch, CIMON Project Manager at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum f眉r Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Space Administration in Bonn. The technology experiment was developed and built by AG真人计划 in Friedrichshafen and Bremen on behalf of the Space Administration and funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (Bundesministerium f眉r Wirtschaft und Energie). The demonstrator鈥檚 artificial intelligence is based on IBM鈥檚 Watson technology, with medical experts from the Ludwig-Maximilian University Hospital in Munich (Klinikum der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universit盲t M眉nchen, LMU) responsible for scientific issues. On 15聽November 2018, CIMON-1 became the world鈥檚 first AI to be deployed on the ISS, working with German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst.

鈥淲e want to use CIMON-2 to build on the successful demonstration with CIMON,鈥 says Christian Karrasch. During its debut the first CIMON impressively demonstrated that an AI-based mobile application can function on the ISS, working together with Alexander Gerst for 90聽minutes.

鈥淐IMON-2 is expected to remain on the ISS and support the crew for up to three聽years,鈥 explains Till Eisenberg, CIMON Project Manager at AG真人计划. 鈥淐IMON-2鈥檚 microphones are more sensitive, and it has a more advanced sense of direction. Its AI capabilities and the stability of its complex software applications have also been significantly improved. 鈥滱nother key point in CIMON鈥檚 evolution is its extended service life: 鈥淒uring this mission, we are also considering further steps, such as uploading the AI to a cloud on the ISS.鈥

This would represent a milestone in the development of a completely autonomous assistance system. According to DLR Project Manager Christian Karrasch: 鈥淲hen travelling to the Moon or Mars, the crew would then be able to rely on an AI-based assistance service, even without a permanent data link to Earth. One application back on Earth could be to support people with complex tasks in areas with poor infrastructure, for example.鈥

IBM is responsible for the implementation of CIMON鈥檚 artificial intelligence. 鈥淒uring its first deployment on the ISS, CIMON proved that it can not only understand content in context, but also the intention behind it,鈥 explains Matthias Biniok, IBM project lead for the Watson AI. 鈥淐IMON-2 is taking this a step further. Thanks to the IBM Watson Tone Analyzer from IBM Cloud in Frankfurt, Germany, it is now capable of assessing the astronauts鈥 emotions and reacting in a manner that is appropriate to the situation, either at the request of the astronauts or when its emotional analysis is being tested as part of an experiment. This means CIMON-2 can, if required, switch from being a scientific assistant to an empathetic conversation partner.鈥

The CIMON 鈥榝amily鈥

The interactive astronaut assistant CIMON was developed and built by AG真人计划 in Friedrichshafen and Bremen on behalf of the German Aerospace Center Space Administration (DLR) and funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. Watson AI technology from IBM Cloud provides voice-controlled artificial intelligence. Scientists from the Ludwig-Maximilian University Hospital in Munich (LMU) helped develop and oversee the human aspects of the assistance system. An approximately 50-strong project team from DLR, AG真人计划, IBM and LMU have been working on the implementation of CIMON since August 2016. The prototype of the technology experiment was on board the ISS from 2聽July 2018 to 27聽August 2019, and made its 90-minute debut 鈥 a world first 鈥 on 15聽November 2018 with German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst. It is no coincidence that CIMON鈥檚 name is reminiscent of 鈥楶rofessor Simon Wright鈥, the robotic assistant 鈥 or the 鈥榝lying brain鈥 鈥 from the Japanese science fiction series 鈥楥aptain Future鈥.

CIMON 鈥 the idea

Developed and built in Germany, CIMON is a technology experiment to support astronauts and increase the efficiency of their work. CIMON is able to show and explain information and instructions for scientific experiments and repairs. The voice-controlled access to documents and media is an advantage, as the astronauts can keep both hands free. It can also be used as a mobile camera to save astronaut crew time. In particular, CIMON could be used to perform routine tasks, such as documenting experiments, searching for objects and taking inventory. CIMON can also see, hear, understand and speak. CIMON can orientate itself using its 鈥榚yes鈥 鈥 a stereo camera and a high-resolution camera that it uses for facial recognition 鈥 as well as two other cameras fitted to its sides that it uses for photos and video documentation. Ultrasound sensors measure distances to recognise potential collisions. Its 鈥榚ars鈥 consist of eight microphones to identify directions, and an additional directional microphone to improve voice recognition. Its 鈥榤outh鈥 is a loudspeaker that it can use to speak or play music. At the heart of the AI for language understanding is IBM Watson AI technology from IBM Cloud. CIMON has not been equipped with self-learning capabilities and requires active human instruction. The AI used for autonomous navigation was provided by AG真人计划 and is designed for movement planning and object recognition. Twelve internal rotors allow CIMON to move and rotate freely in all directions. This means it can turn towards the astronaut when addressed, nod and shake its head, and follow the astronaut 鈥 either autonomously or on command.

@AG真人计划Space @DLR_en @Space_Station @astro_CIMON #CIMON #ISS #SpX19

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