This Flying Space Droid Wants to Make Friends with Astronauts

The world’s first flying, autonomous, artificially intelligent (AI) astronaut assistant will soon get to work in space.

CIMON will also serve to demonstrate and explore how robots, specifically robots with emotional intelligence, will interact socially with humans. The statement from Airbus said that social interactions between humans and robots will be especially important for long-term space missions.

But CIMON won’t just be an important tool (or “colleague”) for astronauts. The happy-looking robot ball could also be useful in hospital or social-care environments, the statement said. However, while the droid’s potential applications are exciting, “there is still some way to go” before the tech is commonplace in both space and our regular lives, Eisenberg, said.

An assistant like CIMON could be vital for astronauts because of the strange, often-difficult environment aboard the space station. “Astronauts have to work in a challenging environment,” Eisenberg said. “They have to work on various facilities and perform experiments in different disciplines in a noisy and complex surrounding [environment].”

Eisenberg and the rest of the team at Airbus think that CIMON could reduce stress on the job and make tasks easier, he said.

Perhaps the most fascinating fact about this new AI astronaut assistant is the inspiration behind its design. While Gerst had some say in CIMON’s voice and face, Eisenberg told Space.com that, among the many design influences, “The closest connection can be seen in Professor Simon Wright of the science fiction story ‘Captain Future,”” a scientist who, in the science fiction series published from 1940-1951, put his brain into a robot body.

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