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Free-floating AI robot gets huffy with astronaut during International Space Station interaction

European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst is shown interacting with Cimon, a n Alexa-style digital assistant designed to help crew members on the International Space Station. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

A free-floating robotic face says “Be nice, please,” to European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst in a video released by the ESA on Friday. The video marked the crew's first official interaction between CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile CompanioN), an Alexa-style robot run by IBM Watson artificial intelligence.

What is its function?

The AI robot is there to help crew members with tasks, boost morale and provide a little entertainment, CNET.com reported.

Some of Gerst’s interactions with the robot were somewhat weird and awkward.

Gerst and CIMON begin with small talk and then Gerst asks it to play his favorite song: “The Man-Machine” by Kraftwerk, a German electronic band.

During the interaction CIMON gets slightly offended and begins badgering the crew members.

"Don't you like it here with me?" CIMON asked Gerst. "Don't be so mean, please."

That comment earned a surprised look from NASA astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor who was watching nearby.

CIMON is a work in progress, with more updates expected from its development team.

The robot is a “3D-printed plastic sphere designed to test human-machine interaction in space,” according to the ASA. It was developed and built by Airbus in Friedrichshafen and Bremen, Germany, on behalf of German Space Agency DLR. The robot’s scientific aspects are overseen by researchers at Ludwig Maximilians University Clinic in Munich, according to the ESA.

During his test run, CIMON also performed a turn mid-air, which earned praise from Gerst.

“I’m glad you like it,” the robot responded.

CIMON’s developers were reportedly happy with the initial outing, and are hopeful it will mark “the beginning of exciting collaboration between astronauts, robotic assistants and possible future artificial intelligence in space,” the ESA wrote on its YouTube page.

Will the robot control anything?

“The good news is CIMON doesn't have control of the ISS systems like HAL 9000 did with the spacecraft in 2001: A Space Odyssey,” CNET observed, adding that “CIMON might need to work on its insecurity.”

One last thing…
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