Scientists will launch the CIMON-2 (short for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion) assistant robot on the ISS. The first version of the device worked with European astronauts, but now the robot has received a software update. It will help him perform more complex tasks.
The robot’s body has been stored on the space station since the departure of ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano in February 2020. The robot will launch again during the upcoming mission of German astronaut Matthias Maurer, who will arrive on the ISS with the SpaceX Crew-3 Dragon mission in October 2020.
In the year and a half since the last mission was completed, engineers have been working to improve CIMON’s communications with Earth so that it can provide astronauts with more seamless services, CIMON project manager Till Eisenberg of Airbus, which developed the intelligent robot in partnership with German Aerospace the DLR Center and the LMU University in Munich.
“The robot body is only a frontend. Voice recognition and artificial intelligence work on Earth at the IBM data center in Frankfurt, Germany. The signal from CIMON must travel through satellites and ground stations to and from the data center. We focused on improving the reliability of this connection to prevent failures, ”the researchers noted.
CIMON uses IBM Watson speech recognition and synthesis software to communicate with astronauts and respond to their commands. The first generation robot traveled to the space station with Alexander Hirst in 2018. Later, this robot returned to Earth and is now exhibited in German museums. The new second-generation robot responds better to the emotional state of astronauts thanks to the tone analyzer.
“In the early stages of development, we had a delay of about ten seconds, which was not very convenient,” the researchers noted. “Through improved software architecture, we were able to reduce response times to two seconds.”