Mar 2, 2018 | By Benedict

Airbus and IBM are developing CIMON (Crew Interactive MObile CompanioN), an AI-based assistant for astronauts for the DLR Space Administration. The ball-shaped robot with the friendly face is 3D printed in plastic and metal.

With additive manufacturing becoming ever more prominent in the aerospace industry, it’s no surprise that we get a lot of news from industry giant Airbus. The company has installed titanium 3D printed parts on several of its aircraft, as well as lightweight internal sections made of a special 3D printable alloy.

It’s latest 3D printed innovation, however, is a little different.

That innovation is CIMON, or Crew Interactive MObile CompanioN, an AI assistant that will be tested on the ISS by Alexander Gerst during the European Space Agency’s Horizons mission between June and October 2018.

CIMON, whose entire 5 kg structure is 3D printed in plastic and metal, is around the size of a medicine ball, and is designed to support astronauts carrying out routine work by displaying procedures and offering solutions to problems. Airbus says CIMON’s neural network and ability to learn (it uses IBM’s Watson AI tech) could make it an invaluable member of the crew.

Because astronauts can engage with CIMON using natural language, the artificial intelligence assistant makes life easier for them, increasing efficiency, facilitating mission success, and improving security. CIMON can even serve as an early warning system for technical problems.

Fortunately, it looks like everyone will get along nicely: to ensure compatibility between astronaut and assistant, CIMON’s Watson AI brain was trained using voice samples and photos of Gerst, while procedures and plans of the Columbus module of the International Space Station were loaded into the database to familiarize the assistant with its surroundings. Additionally, Gerst himself had some say in the facial and vocal characteristics of his new digital friend.

“In short, CIMON will be the first AI-based mission and flight assistance system,” explained Manfred Jaumann, Head of Microgravity Payloads from Airbus. “We are the first company in Europe to carry a free flyer, a kind of flying brain, to the ISS and to develop artificial intelligence for the crew on board the space station.”

CIMON’s tasks? Equipped with a selected range of capabilities for this first mission, the companion will be asked to experiment with crystals, work with Gerst to solve a Rubik’s cube, and help perform a complex medical experiment by functioning as an “intelligent” flying camera.

The assistant’s first taste of space will come later this month during the 31st DLR parabolic flight campaign.

IBM Watson, the AI tech used in CIMON, has also been used by Local Motors on its autonomous 3D printed bus, Olli.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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