It’s propelled by 14 internal fans moving in whatever direction it needs. Voice-controlled AI capabilities, provided by IBM, allow the companion to interact with any astronaut that calls its name. Researchers chose a ball rather than a humanoid face for Cimon because they thought it would be less potentially disturbing or creepy. Because it’s perfectly round—a little bigger than a basketball—it’s also safer. It’s an under 5 million Euros, or $5.8 million project. CIMON will be transported to the station by a SpaceX flight.
On ISS, the robot for help with a couple science experiments. But it’s goal is to simply test out this AI companion technology during a total of three hours of interraction with the humans. Next year, Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano will be Cimon’s orbital master. That’s when the AI researchers will delve more into mood. SpaceX is employing a used Falcon 9 rocket for this mission, as well as a used Dragon cargo capsule to carry all of the supplies to the ISS. It marks the third time the company has flown both a refurbished Dragon and Falcon 9 for NASA.