AI Case Study

Airbus is offering a virtual assistant for astronauts that gives companionship and expert advice while in space through a neural network based astronaut assistance system

Airbus has designed an AI-based assistant for astronauts, a machine able to support space flight crews by problem solving and ensuring the completion of a routine schedule. Using IBM's Watson it provides the psychological support of talking to a crew member, which is believed is crucial for the success of long-term missions. The assistant will first be tested by Alexander Gerst on the ISS during the European Space Agency’s Horizons mission in mid-2018.

Industry

Industrials

Aerospace And Defence

Project Overview

According to the company's press release, "CIMON is designed to support astronauts in performing routine work, for example by displaying procedures or – thanks to its ‘neural’ AI network and its ability to learn – offering solutions to problems. It uses Watson AI technology from the IBM cloud and, with its face, voice and artificial intelligence, becomes a genuine ‘colleague’ on board. With CIMON, crew members can do more than just work through a schematic view of prescribed checklists and procedures; they can also engage with their assistant. In this way, CIMON makes work easier for the astronauts when carrying out every day routine tasks, helps to increase efficiency, facilitates mission success and improves security, as it can also serve as an early warning system for technical problems. The technology demonstrator, which is the size of a medicine ball and weighs around 5 kg, will be tested on the ISS by Alexander Gerst during the European Space Agency’s Horizons mission between June and October 2018."

"Airbus initially examined the concept for the assistance system as part of a self-financed study. Then, in August 2016, the Bonn-based DLR Space Administration commissioned Airbus’ aerospace experts to carry out the project. Since then, a 50-strong project team comprising members from Airbus, DLR, IBM and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich (LMU) has been working to ensure that CIMON takes shape and is brought to life: the system is learning to orientate itself and move around, it accumulates knowledge with the help of Watson AI technology and is training to recognise its human partners."

According to a December 2018 update, CIMON turned uncooperative during an interactive session with ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, refusing to turn off music and ignoring commands. (nzherald.co.nz)

Reported Results

Planned; results not yet available

Technology

"It uses Watson AI technology from the IBM cloud and, with its face, voice and artificial intelligence, becomes a genuine ‘colleague’ on board. Its ‘neural’ AI network and its ability to learn will offer solutions to problems."

Function

Human Resources

Employee Relations

Background

"Social interaction between people and machines, between astronauts and assistance systems equipped with emotional intelligence, could play an important role in the success of long-term missions."

Benefits

Data

"The Watson AI was trained using voice samples and photos of Alexander Gerst, and procedures and plans of the Columbus module of the International Space Station were loaded into the database."