“CIMON-2, the latest version of the artificial intelligence-powered astronaut assistant developed has successfully demonstrated its capabilities on board the International Space Station (ISS) in initial tests. The ball-shaped, free-flying voice-controlled assistant demonstrated its functionalities while interacting with European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Luca Parmitano. CIMON-2 was launched to the ISS on December 5, 2019, from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on board the supply flight CRS-19. It is scheduled to remain there for up to three years. Nearly two months after the successful deployment of CIMON-2 in February, the project team has now completed its initial analysis.
CIMON-2 was tested on its autonomous flight capabilities, voice control of navigation and other tasks. For the first time, CIMON-2 was able to navigate by verbal commands to a specific point within the Columbus module, regardless of where it is located. This was demonstrated when, during the commissioning of the new hardware and software, Parmitano asked CIMON-2 to fly to the Biological Experiment Laboratory (Biolab) within the Columbus module.
Another task for CIMON-2 was to take photos and videos inside the European module of the ISS on command and then show them to the astronaut. With these skills, CIMON-2 will be able to support scientific experiments on the ISS in the future.
The current version of the astronaut assistant includes more sensitive microphones and a more developed sense of orientation than its predecessor (CIMON-1). The AI capabilities and stability of its complex software have also been significantly improved in CIMON-2. The autonomy of the battery-powered assistant has been increased by about 30 percent. In addition, CIMON-2 can detect emotions and language tones with Watson Tone Analyzer, enabling the AI assistant to react empathically to its conversational partners.
A further goal of the project is to explore how an intelligent assistant like CIMON can reduce stress for astronauts. As a partner and companion, CIMON could support them in their extensive work on experiments, maintenance and repairs, reducing their stress exposure. CIMON provides a possible basis for social assistance systems in space, which could reduce stress caused by isolation or group dynamic interactions during long-term missions, a benefit that could possibly be applied on Earth as well.
The team of DLR, Airbus, IBM and scientific partners LMU and the ESA User Support Centrum Biotesc are very satisfied with the performance of CIMON-2 so far. The new, improved hardware and complex software worked very well. This renewed success for the CIMON project is another pioneering achievement in the use of AI in space.
CIMON-2 was launched to the International Space Station on December 5, 2019, from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It is scheduled to stay on the ISS for up to three years; further experiments will follow. Its predecessor, CIMON-1, returned to Earth in August 2019 after spending 14 months on the ISS.”