CIMON the floating robot head brings AI to the ISS

The folks at AIRBUS and IBM will bring a Crew Interactive MObile CompanioN (CIMON) disembodied robot head to the International Space Station this summer. This robot head was never really attached to a robot body – it was built specifically for the ISS – and a free-floating environment in which it'll function. This robot head will bring artificial intelligence to the ISS – almost like DAVID in Prometheus, or Ash in Alien. Not to worry!

European Space Agency astronaut Dr. Alexander Gerst @Astro_Alex on Twitter will be making his way back to the International Space Station between May and December of 2018 where he'll be Commander for Expedition 57. During the span between June and October of 2018, Gerst will be testing CIMON's capabilities as a "technology demonstrator."

"CIMON is designed to support astronauts in performing routine work, for example by displaying procedures or – thanks to its 'neural' AI network and its ability to learn – offering solutions to problems," said an Airbus representative. "It uses Watson AI technology from the IBM cloud and, with its face, voice and artificial intelligence, becomes a genuine 'colleague' on board."

We've had some experience with Watson AI in the form of a children's toy called Dino. CogniToys took the artificial intelligence in Watson AI created by IBM and planted it in the brain of a tiny dinosaur with a voice like Yoda.

CIMON will be sent to space in "as early as March 2018" according to Airbus. During this first DLR parabolic flight campaign, CIMON will focus on testing and optimizing GNC algorithms in zero gravity. These algorithms will consist of control, navigation, and guidance – hence the GNC. Another of CIMON's "exercises" aboard the ISS is to work with a human companion to solve a Rubik's Cube.

CIMON will also experiment with crystals on the ISS, and "perform a complex medical experiment." The latter of those two exercises will use CIMON as an "intelligent camera."

We'll expect to see a whole lot more of CIMON in the field come June. Stick around as we await footage from onboard the International Space Station, courtesy of Gerst, Airbus, IBM, and the rest of the ISS crew, onboard and back home on the ground.