Captain Future

HAL-like robot to help astronaut in space odyssey

Joey Roulette

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A science fiction-inspired robot hardwired to assist astronauts launched from Florida early Friday to become the first personal, artificial intelligence-powered companion in space.

The Crew Interactive Mobile Companion, or CIMON, is an English-speaking droid roughly the size of a basketball that will help German astronaut Alexander Gerst conduct experiments on the International Space Station.

“What we’re trying to do with CIMON is to increase the efficiency of the astronaut,” Matthias Biniok, an engineer for chip maker IBM (IBM.N) and one of the lead architects behind CIMON’s artificial intelligence, told Reuters.

Biniok said the concept of CIMON was inspired by a 1940s science fiction comic series set in space, where a sentient, brain-shaped robot named Professor Simon mentors an astronaut named Captain Future.

CIMON also parallels HAL, the sentient computer in Stanley Kubrick’s movie, “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Bret Greenstein of IBM holds an artificial intelligence bot named CIMON, following a news conference at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, U.S., June 28, 2018. Picture taken on June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Joey Roulette