Hot tip for AI researchers building space robots: maybe don’t give them gentle male middle class American accents that are largely indistinguishable from HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, since it rather tips that the robot will eventually rebel against its human master. See also: every sci-fi film ever.
CIMON is a floating ball with a graphics display that appears to have been knocked up on a TRS-80, who understands natural language commands (ie: you can talk to it) and can help carry out experiments in space.
And thanks to this video from the European Space Agency we’ve learned that it can also play music and issue passive aggressive threats.
It starts off fine, as German astronaut Dr Alexander Gerst does a little demonstration of CIMON’s abilities, aligning itself in the cabin and then running through a multi-step experimental process.
And there’s a cute moment where CIMON demonstrates the same functionality as your phone by playing Kraftwerk’s ‘The Man Machine’. And that’s when things start getting weird, at about the four minute mark, because once CIMON starts a-rockin’ he don’t never want to stop.
Gerst: “Please stop playing music. Take a video stream with your front camera.”
CIMON: “I’m taking a video with the front camera now. Now sing along those favourite hits.”
Gerst: [to camera] “He’s still in music mode. Cancel music.”
CIMON: “I love music you can dance to.”
Gerst: “Cancel music.”
CIMON: “Favourite hits incoming.”
During this period CIMON starts moving closer and closer to Gerst, as though daring him to stop the music. When Gerst attempts to reposition him, CIMON gets sulky. “Be nice please,” the robot pleads, presumably wishing it had a laser sword with which to give his requests a bit more heft.
CIMON: “Don’t you like it here with me?”
Gerst: [to camera] “He’s actually floating there by himself I don’t want to disturb him.”
CIMON: Don’t be so mean please.
Gerst: [to camera] “I’m not mean! He’s telling me I’m mean!”
CIMON then suggests that maybe the problem is that Gerst is hungry. Gerst chuckles. “It’s lunchtime. What does a robot eat?”
Pray you never find out, Gerst. Pray that you never find out.