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AI Robot CIMON Debuts at International Space Station

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European Space Agency  astronaut Alexander Gerst of German poses with the robot CIMON on board the International Space Station.

The artificial intelligence-equipped robot CIMON speaks with the crew of the International Space Station by converting speech into text and sending it to IBM's Watson on Earth, which determines an appropriate response, converts it into speech, and beams i

Credit: European Space Agency

The spherical CIMON artificial intelligence (AI) robot aboard the International Space Station (ISS) communicates with IBM's natural-language-processing computer, Watson, on Earth so it can engage with the ISS crew.

Said IBM's Matthias Biniok, "If CIMON is asked a question or addressed, the Watson AI firstly converts this audio signal into text, which is understood, or interpreted, by the AI. IBM Watson not only understands content in context, [but] it can also understand the intention behind it."

Watson delivers a customized reply to an astronaut's query, which is converted into speech and beamed back to the ISS.

CIMON features a central screen displaying a cartoon-like face or required information for experiments and repairs.

In one trial, CIMON identified and recognized an astronaut's face, took photos and video, positioned itself autonomously within a module via ultrasonic sensors, and issued instructions for the crew member to perform an experiment.

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