Astronauts aboard the International Space Station will soon get a personal assistant, similar to Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri, but so smart that astronauts prefer to call it a "colleague."
Its official name is CIMON, short for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion, and it will partially live in a five-kilogram ball built by Airbus. It has a video screen with rudimentary face features, cameras with face recognition, microphones and speakers.
CIMON will move freely within the space station; however, its brain will be on Earth in IBM's supercomputer, named Watson, loaded with a huge amount of scientific knowledge.
CIMON's main human companion will be German astronaut Alexander Gerst, who will bring it onboard ISS in June. The two are currently training together, as CIMON will have to be able to recognize Gerst's voice and face, and also to navigate within the complicated interior of the spacecraft.
For starters, Gerst and CIMON will cooperate in experiments with crystals, a complex medical experiment, and also try to solve the Rubik's magic cube using only videos.
A larger experiment will be the interaction between human and artificial intelligence, especially in view of future deep-space missions.
CIMON's developers would like to see whether an intelligent interactive assistant will help reduce astronauts' stress during long flights and improve their efficiency.