Earlier this year, designboom reported on the international space station’s new AI-powered robot, CIMON, a 3D-printed plastic sphere designed to test human-machine interaction in space.

Short for crew interactive mobile companion, CIMON is described as a ‘mobile and autonomous assistance system’ and is designed to float around the station and help answer astronauts’ questions. now, in a new video release by the european space agency, CIMON has made its official debut successfully interacting with a crew member.

CIMON tests

ESA astronaut Alexander gerst welcomes the new face to the Columbus laboratory. After introducing himself, where he comes from and what he can do, CIMON tests his free-flying abilities, helps Alexander with a procedure and even plays alexander’s favorite song ‘man-machine’ by Kraftwerk. in fact, CIMON likes the music so much, he does not want to stop.

The 6 million, medicine ball-sized, ‘flying brain’ robot was built by Airbus under a contract awarded by the German aerospace center (DLR) and uses artificial intelligence software by IBM Watson. 

Its scientific aspects are overseen by researchers at Ludwig maximilians university clinic in Munich. It uses 12 internal fans, which allow it to move in multiple directions while floating in the microgravity conditions of space. It can display instructions on its screen, capture video, play music, and even search for objects on board.

According to the ESA, both CIMON’s developers and Alexander are happy with his initial outing and hope to see him in action again soon. No further sessions other than this are planned during the horizons mission at this stage, but it could mark the beginning of the exciting collaboration between astronauts, robotic assistants and possible future artificial intelligence in space.

“Looking forward to some really exciting weeks ahead as we unload the science and get started on some great experiments,” Station astronaut Ricky Arnold reported to Mission Control after using a robotic arm to grab the Dragon.

Of course, the key to those experiments will be CIMON, which was developed by Airbus and Germany’s DLR space agency, and powered by IBM’s Watson supercomputer. CIMON will be the first form of artificial intelligence to arrive at the space station, where it will aid the astronauts with their research work and presumably become their buddy, as well.

CIMON is about the size of a volleyball and has a display built in. It can see, hear, talk, and comprehend, and its A.I. smarts mean that the more it interacts with crew members, the more abilities it will develop. Fourteen built-in fans will enable the 11-pound (5 kg) robot to float in any direction once inside the weightless environment of the space station. The near-spherical robot will be able to turn toward an astronaut when it’s spoken to, as well as nod and shake its head during a conversation. It will even follow an astronaut autonomously or on command.