The Airbus Space Robot is Nothing Like HAL… We Hope


When I first saw Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” I took comfort in the fact that it was — at that time — pretty close to the actual year 2001, and we were nowhere near creepy sentient robots like HAL.

Fast forward 20-or-so years and the rise of artificial intelligence means we are that much closer to robots that gain our trust and then turn on us. But don’t worry — we are also closer to friendly, helpful ones, like CIMON!

Business Insider is reporting that a talking, intelligent robot head will be joining a crew heading to the International Space Station in June. CIMON – which stands for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion – is being described as a “flying brain” and was designed, in part, by Airbus and uses IBM’s AI technology Watson - the same software that famously won Jeopardy.

CIMON has been trained to work with scientist Andrew Gerst, who will be deployed on the June mission, and can recognize his voice and face, allowing CIMON to follow Gerst around the ship. Ideally, CIMON can use its artificial intelligence to help interpret data and, perhaps, foretell potential technical problems.

The robot will also be expected to conduct complicated medical experiments, and assess the emotional state of the group of space travelers so that researchers can get a better handle on the psychological impacts of space missions. CIMON will benefit from its stand-alone stored version of IBM’s Watson, which will allow it to still function without an internet connection.

The report from Business Insider insists that CIMON is nothing like Space Odyssey’s HAL, and I want to believe that. But just take a look at this creepy mug and tell me if you’d rocket out to space with it.

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