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Andrea Electronics' microphone planned for space station robot

The mic represents a return to space for the 84-year-old company, which developed an audio system for the Project Mercury astronauts.

CIMON is the world's first flying, autonomous astronaut

CIMON is the world's first flying, autonomous astronaut assistant featuring artificial intelligence. Photo Credit: German Aerospace Center (DLR)

A Long Island company is supplying microphones for a robot designed to float inside the International Space Station and use its artificial intelligence to help a German scientist with research projects.

The robot, dubbed CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile CompanioN), will come equipped with artificial intelligence from IBM’s Watson and a DA-250 digital array microphone from Bohemia-based Andrea Electronics Corp.

Watson is the cognitive computing system that most famously beat a human champion on “Jeopardy” in 2011.

Douglas Andrea, chief executive of Andrea Electronics, said IBM contacted the company after testing other noise-canceling microphones that failed to meet its standards.

“We were in a bake-off,” he said.

Andrea said that the company’s noise reduction algorithm succeeded in reducing the “humming and buzzing” throughout the space station.

The use of the microphone system on CIMON represents a return to space for his 84-year-old company, which developed the audio system used in the helmets of the Project Mercury astronauts in the early 1960s, Andrea said. Project Mercury was the program that launched the first U.S. astronauts.

“My grandfather developed the audio system for Project Mercury,” he said in a phone interview. “We’re going back into space.”

CIMON, about the size of a medicine ball with a display and speakers, will float in the weightless environment and maneuver on its own by shooting out jets of air. The autonomous system is designed to aid European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, 41, a geophysicist. Gerst is expected to be launched to the space station in June for a six-month mission.

Airbus, the European aerospace company, is the prime contractor for CIMON, an experiment overseen by Space Administration at the German Aerospace Center.

Till Eisenberg, project manager at Airbus in Friedrichshafen, Germany, said in a statement that the project breaks new ground.

“CIMON is a personal assistant capable of voice and facial recognition,” he said. “We want to study the psychological effects of long space missions on crew members and try out suitable countermeasures, especially those that reduce stress. We will place special emphasis on data mining and interactions between humans and AI.”

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