SPACE ODDITY

The ISS is getting an AI orb that can move in zero gravity

A face only a programmer could love.
A face only a programmer could love.
Image: DLR
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[Insert HAL 9000 joke here.]

Airbus and IBM have collaborated to create a basketball-sized sphere with a computer screen to assist astronauts in the International Space Station. Called CIMON, or Crew Interactive MObile companioN, the floating orb uses artificial intelligence to listen for commands and then display experiment or repair instructions.

It can even search for objects and document experiments, according to the German Aerospace Center (DLR). However, CIMON looks undeniably dumb.

CIMON is joining the ISS as a part of  the SpaceX launch today (June 29), alongside six other experiments.

OK, then.
OK, then.
Image: DLR

In the zero-gravity environment, the little bot will use 12 fans to push itself around the station, as well as to ape human nods or head shakes.

It’s still unclear how useful CIMON will be. The bot has been trained to understand the voice and face of a German astronaut, Alexander Gerst, who will later decide how the bot does. If things go sideways and the experiment is counterproductive, CIMON is outfitted with a kill switch.