CIMON Says: Design Lessons from a Robot Assistant in Space

by Nicolette Emmino

Of the more than 225 visitors to the International Space Station (ISS) in the past 20 years, June 2018 marked the first time one of those visitors was a free-flying, autonomous service robot. CIMON, or as it is more formally known, the Crew Interactive MObile CompanioN, is a 320mm in diameter, 5kg, a robotic brain that can speak, hear, see, and understand. CIMON is an artificial intelligence (AI) assistant in the form of a plastic spherical head with no body.

CIMON, developed and built by Airbus on behalf of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V., abbreviated DLR), was assigned to assist Gerst with three different tasks, making this service robot a collaborative robot as well. The three tasks involved solving a Rubik’s cube puzzle, conducting experiments with crystals, and carrying out a medical experiment which CIMON would film. CIMON could also serve as a complex database of all necessary information about operation and repair procedures for experiments and equipment on the ISS, allowing astronauts to have their hands free while working. If the crew wanted to capture video for documentation purposes, CIMON could handle that as well.

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