"Be nice, please," a free-floating robotic face tells ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst in a video released by the European Space Agency on Friday. CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile Companion) is an robot stuffed with IBM Watson artificial intelligence. It arrived on the International Space Station earlier this year. The robot is meant to assist the human crew members with tasks, provide some entertainment and boost morale. The ESA video shows Gerst's first interactions with the machine.
It starts off with CIMON responding politely to Gerst's commands. The robot engages in small talk. Gerst asks it to play his favorite song, which turns out to be "The Man-Machine" by German electronic band Kraftwerk.
Things take a turn as CIMON starts to question the intentions of his human companions. "Don't you like it here with me?" it asks Gerst as NASA astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor watches from nearby. "Don't be so mean, please," CIMON says, earning an astonished look from Auñón-Chancellor.
CIMON is a technology demonstration experiment that will likely receive updates and improvements from its development team. Gerst ends up praising the robot's ability to fly in microgravity.
“Happy with his initial outing, both Cimon’s developers and Alexander hope to see Cimon back in action again soon. While no further sessions are planned during the Horizons mission at this stage, it could mark the beginning of exciting collaboration between astronauts, robotic assistants and possible future artificial intelligence in space,” said the space agency.