What seems like a giant leap for digital assistants, Alexa will be the first technology of its kind to travel into space.
Amazon’s intelligent voice assistant will fly out of the earth early next year as part of NASA’s highly anticipated Artemis-I mission, which will pave the way for a manned moon landing before the end of the decade.
Amazon engineers have created an enhanced version of Alexa that will be tested during Artemis I to see if the technology could be useful for subsequent manned missions.
Banish from your mind any images of an echo dot roughly taped to a seat in Orion. According to Amazon, Lockheed Martin has developed bespoke, space-grade Alexa-embedded hardware that is tough enough to handle the heavy bumps and vibrations of launch, as well as the radiation exposure from the Van Allen radiation belt en route to the moon.
During Artemis I, an Orion spacecraft will fly by the moon before returning to Earth. The trip will not be manned, so NASA will remotely set up Alexa interactions, with mission control staff, students, and special guests being able to ask questions of the voice assistant during the spacecraft’s voyage.
Alexa connects to Orion’s real-time telemetry data and can therefore answer thousands of questions related to the mission while it is in progress.
As you would expect, Alexa can also respond to requests to control connected devices onboard Orion, including cabin lighting.
Alexa is one of several innovative technologies that are being tested as part of Artemis I. The exercise enables mission planners to examine how ambient intelligence can aid astronauts on future trips to the moon and beyond.
“I can envision a future in which astronauts can use simple voice commands to access information about flight status and telemetry – such as the orientation of spacecraft, the water level or the battery voltage status.” said Howard Hu, Orion Assistant Program Manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “Orion is already the most advanced spaceship ever designed to take astronauts to the moon, and voice activation technology could take it to the next level by enabling the interactive computer systems of science fiction spaceships to be used by the next generation become a reality by explorers. “
Alexa engineers also hope to use the mission to learn more about how to improve the digital voice assistant for the many people on earth who are already using it, with a particular focus on making it for those in harsh or remote environments with no connectivity to improve.
“The Star Trek Computers were part of our original inspiration for Alexa, so it’s both exciting and humbling to see our vision for ambient intelligence come to life on board Orion. ” said Aaron Rubenson, vice president of Alexa Everywhere at Amazon.
Rubenson said, “We are proud to be working with Lockheed Martin to push the boundaries of speech technology and AI, and we hope that Alexa’s role on the mission will help inspire future scientists, astronauts and engineers to take this next one Will define the era of space exploration. “.”
With this in mind, Amazon is also launching an initiative called Alexa for Astronauts, which offers students live virtual tours of the Johnson Space Center and includes a STEM curriculum created in collaboration with the National Science Teaching Association and Mobile CSP that highlight computer science learning shall and the Artemis I mission.
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