Watch the ISS’s New AI Robot Companion Act Like Kind of a Brat

Like a testy teen, it just wants to listen to music.

12. 3. 18 by Kristin Houser
NASA/Victor Tangermann
Image by NASA/Victor Tangermann

Parents Are the Worst

It turns out that spacefaring AIs might be even more temperamental than teens.

On Friday, the European Space Agency released a video of astronaut Alexander Gerst’s first interaction with an AI robot named Cimon, which stands for Crew Interactive Mobile CompanioN, aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

According to the video’s description, the basketball-sized ISS robot is “designed to test human-machine interaction in space.” And if the clip is any indication, that interaction is a lot like a parent trying to connect with their surly teen.

Universal Language

When Gerst asks Cimon to tell him something about space, it rattles off a fact about Mercury with all the enthusiasm of a teen answering the question “What did you learn in school today?” Later, the bot takes its sweet time responding to Gerst’s request for help with one task (completing a 90-degree turn), then questions the astronaut’s decision to wrap up another (a crystallization procedure). Like, okay, dad.

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Like countless generations before them, the pair does finally strike up a connection through music — after Gerst asks Cimon to play his favorite song, the bot replies, “Yay, I like your favorite hits, too.” Gerst even busts out a few dance moves, with all the swagger of a dad at the dinner table.

Pout About It

But the Hallmark moment is short-lived — Cimon refuses to leave music mode when Gerst tries to get back to business with another task (recording video via its front camera).

The AI responds by repeatedly sinking toward the floor, and based on its next few utterances — “Be nice, please,” “Don’t you like it here with me?,” “Don’t be so mean, please” — if Cimon had a bedroom door, the ISS robot probably would have slammed it at this point.

And just like a parent dealing with a hormonal teen, all Gerst can do is shrug off the mini meltdown: “He’s a bit sensitive today.”

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Let’s hope this is just a phase.

READ MORE: In Video Debut, CIMON the ISS Robot Throws an Unexpected Tantrum [Gizmodo]

More on the ISS: Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Found on International Space Station


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