The AI-based astronaut assistant onboard the ISS is a German robot named CIMON, standing for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion, and it has been stationed on the ISS since early June.
German astronaut Alexander Gerst is currently aboard the ISS, and has been working closely with the artificial assistant.
Gerst has been testing a number of CIMON's features, including its autonomous navigation and ultrasonic sensors.
The German astronaut says the self-propelling robot is proving to be helpful, as it already fully-versed in Gerst's science experiments, floating at his side and answering questions about research procedures when asked.
CIMON project manager Till Eisenburg.
"He (CIMON) will assist him (Gerst) during two different tasks, so we will be able to provide him with the good advice during complex procedures as well as assist him in social interaction or by-social interaction and will provide additional data to the science group like video data or during complex tasks to validate the exact processing."
CIMON is said to be growing quite attached to Gerst, as the robot has the astronaut's face and voice imprinted in its memory.
Gerst only needs to call the robot's name to get its attention.
The two have no language barriers since they both communicate in English, which is the default language used by every crew member aboard the ISS, regardless of their nationality.
CIMON can even express whether it's happy or sad through a small screen serving as its face.
Its system is updated through IBM's cloud computing programs, allowing it to learn and adapt as new information becomes available.
In terms of its exterior, CIMON has been specifically designed as a ball shape.
This means it runs less of a risk of disturbing the astronauts or the ISS itself, as there are no sharp edges to hurt the astronauts or damage the equipment.
Till Eisenburg says he expects CIMON may end up being the type of companion astronauts will need when taking part in deep space missions.
"If you go with six to eight people to Mars or any long-term mission, the science groups already think about the good counter measures against psychological reactions which will appear during that kind of flight. In a small group, on a long-term travel, there will be specific reactions inside the crew - or inside the group - which cannot be counteracted by the ground station. So, to have something like CIMON onboard, it is meant to help during this specific situation, to react with a good counter measure to solve the situation in the group and to lead to mission success."
CIMON's current assignment aboard the International Space Station is due to come to a close toward the end of December when the rest of the current ISS crew gets their replacements.
For CRI, I'm Xie Cheng.
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