The humans aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have a new crewmate -- an A.I.-enhanced robot called CIMON [SIMON] -- and he had a spotty debut during a new video from the European Space Agency (ESA).
The tech blog The Verge notes the white, basketball-sized bot -- whose name is short for Crew Interactive Mobile companion -- cost six million bucks, and was built by Airbus as part of an experiment to see if a robot could help astronauts on long missions. Perhaps someday, it's thought, a robot like CIMON could help keep up morale on the half-year-long-plus trip to Mars.
The robot floats in the zero gravity of space, holding himself in place thanks to internal fans, and features a front screen that shows a series of emoji-like expressions.
In a video that's gone viral, CIMON, who arrived on the station in June, was being test-driven by German astronaut Alexander Gerst, as NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor watches.
Gerst demonstrates CIMON's Alexa like abilities: he asks the robot some questions, asks it to take some video, and requests it to play Kraftwerk’s "Man-Machine."
CIMON complies, but soon starts glitching. Granted, it wasn't a murderous rampage like HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Ash in Alien, but it was unexpected.
The bot can't seem to switch out of music mode, Gerst notices, to which the robot takes offense.
"Be nice to me," CIMON says meekly, followed by "Don’t you like it here with me?"
"Don't be so mean, please," the bot then says -- a response that leaves the American astronaut slack-jawed.
With both astronauts now laughing, CIMON then changes the subject, asking when it's time to eat lunch.
The bot's engineers hailed the back-and-forth -- part of a 90-minute experiment with its human counterpart -- as a successful first test.