Amazon’s Alexa to be tested on Artemis 1

WASHINGTON — The upcoming uncrewed take a look at flight of the Orion spacecraft will embody a payload to see how a voice recognition expertise broadly obtainable to shoppers right this moment may very well be used to help astronauts on future missions.

Lockheed Martin introduced Jan. 5 that it has been working with Amazon and Cisco on a undertaking referred to as Callisto that shall be flown on the Artemis 1 mission launching no sooner than March. Callisto is an illustration to see how Amazon’s Alexa expertise and Cisco’s Webex teleconferencing platform may very well be used on future crewed missions.

Callisto would permit astronauts to make use of voice instructions to entry knowledge, alter spacecraft controls and work together with groups on the bottom. “We need to present that the sort of expertise will help astronauts with a few of these distinctive human interface applied sciences, making their jobs less complicated, safer, extra environment friendly,” stated Rob Chambers, director of economic civil area technique at Lockheed Martin, in an interview.

One software of the system could be for astronauts to ask Callisto to entry and analyze spacecraft telemetry. “We’re drowning in knowledge and ravenous for data,” he stated. “A technique you’ll be capable to do that with the Callisto payload is to say, ‘Alexa, what’s the common temperature throughout all of the batteries, and what’s the peak temperature?’ It’ll carry out that knowledge processing for you.”

Callisto can even management lighting and shows contained in the spacecraft, or begin diagnostic checks of spacecraft techniques. With Webex, the system can alternate knowledge and assist collaborations like “whiteboarding” with groups on the bottom. “These could be invaluable instruments if I used to be on board as an engineer making an attempt to grasp what could be working or not working properly,” he stated.

The system makes use of a model of the identical Alexa expertise obtainable for shoppers. “Our engineers have executed a bunch of unimaginable work with the groups at Lockheed Martin and Cisco to make sure that Alexa can work properly on this very difficult atmosphere,” stated Aaron Rubenson, vp of Amazon Alexa. That features restricted web entry obtainable on Orion and the completely different acoustics of the capsule’s inside.

Rubenson stated Callisto is programmed to reply to hundreds of phases or “utterances” that it may possibly course of regionally. It’s going to decide if it may possibly deal with the queries itself or must transmit them to the bottom.

The businesses have examined Callisto extensively in simulators and are assured it’s able to fly in area. “There’s nothing like actual life the place it’s important to conduct the switching that should occur, and cope with the latency and the packet loss,” stated Jeetu Patel, govt vp and common supervisor of safety and collaboration at Cisco. “There’s nothing that may substitute that.”

Callisto was developed by the businesses utilizing their very own funding. Chambers stated Lockheed signed a reimbursable Area Act Settlement with NASA in late 2018 to assist testing and inclusion of the expertise on Artemis 1, paying for all the prices related to that work.

Since Artemis 1 is an uncrewed mission, there shall be nobody on board to talk to Callisto. Chambers stated “digital crew members” in a backroom of mission management will subject instructions to Callisto, with quite a lot of cameras inside Orion monitoring that work.

There aren’t any plans for now, he added, to make use of Callisto on future Artemis missions or different spacecraft, pending how properly the expertise works on Artemis 1. “That is all about testing it on this flight, seeing if it’s worthwhile, after which we will assess how it may be used as we transfer ahead not simply on Orion however on habitats, at Gateway, rovers, and any variety of different purposes we’re actively taking a look at.”

Utilizing Alexa in area would, in some respects, carry the expertise full circle. Rubenson stated that Amazon’s improvement of Alexa was impressed by the computer systems on the “Star Trek” tv sequence, which responded to voice instructions from the starship’s crew.

“We envision a future the place astronauts can flip to an onboard AI for data, for help in doing their jobs in less complicated and extra environment friendly methods, and in addition, finally, for companionship,” he stated. “Callisto is a chance for us to check that principle and discover how voice expertise and AI could be useful and doubtlessly assist assist future crewed missions.”

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