NASA to take Alexa into space to make spacecraft as smart as home

In many sci-fi movies, voice assistants are integral to spaceships. Amazon's smart voice assistant Alexa is named after "Star Trek". Now, Alexa is really going to be like its "idol".

Getting Alexa into the Orion spacecraft is part of NASA's new moon landing program, "Artemis I," a partnership between Amazon and Lockheed Martin.

While Artemis I won't be crewed, it will help NASA test technology for future crewed missions.

▲ Technical demonstration. Image from: Amazon

Alexa is one of them, exploring how "ambient intelligence" can help astronauts perform their missions.

To that end, Lockheed Martin has designed custom space-grade hardware with Alexa built-in, ensuring the device can withstand launch and the intense shock of passing through the Van Allen radiation belts.

"Dad" Amazon is responsible for providing acoustic and audio processing software, adjusting the algorithm to solve the noise and reverberation interference in the cabin, thereby supporting Alexa's far-field voice interaction.

▲ Alexa Echo display. Image from: Amazon

Alexa is also equipped with Amazon's native voice control technology, allowing operation in areas with limited or no connectivity.

On Earth, Alexa has the ability to interact with voice, play music, control smart devices, provide real-time information, and more. What exactly does it do on the spacecraft?

First, Alexa is responsible for accessing real-time telemetry data and answering thousands of specific questions on the spacecraft, such as "Alexa, how fast is the spacecraft?" or "Alexa, what's the temperature in the cabin."

Second, Alexa can fulfill requests for connected devices such as in-cabin lighting, a job that also makes sense for the inhabitants of the planet, helping engineers learn how to serve customers with harsh Internet environments.

▲ Deep Space Network. Image from: NASA

Plus, using NASA's Deep Space Network , Alexa will retrieve information from Earth for astronauts to help them stay connected to home on long-duration missions, from news briefings to sports scores. satisfy.

It is worth mentioning that, combining multiple technologies with local processing on the spacecraft, astronauts can bypass the delay in sending messages between the moon and the earth, and access specific information and functions almost immediately.

All in all, Alexa is designed to make life easier and more efficient for astronauts, especially when they're stuck or distracted during missions, as it does on Earth.

But if it is too deeply involved with the spacecraft equipment, it is also reminiscent of the terrible side of artificial intelligence. The most typical example is the HAL 9000 of "2001 A Space Odyssey", which is a supercomputer with strong artificial intelligence, with soft voice and sound. The red "eye", deranged in spaceflight, calmly kills four crew members.

▲"2001 Space Odyssey". Picture from: Douban

Artemis I is an unmanned mission. To simulate a future crewed program, Amazon and several partners have organized a virtual crew experience at NASA's Johnson Space Center, where audio and video footage from the Orion spacecraft will be transmitted back to Earth.

In addition to taking Alexa on an actual trip around the moon, Amazon wants to get more students, teachers and families involved in space exploration, inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers and astronauts.

▲ Picture from: Amazon

On the one hand, on a variety of Alexa-enabled smart devices, Amazon will add an interactive experience related to Artemis I, from which users can obtain telemetry data of the Orion spacecraft, mission videos and images, key node reminders, and more.

One of the voice commands is the very appropriate "Alexa, take me to the moon".

▲ Picture from: Amazon

Amazon, on the other hand, is creating a new Amazon Future Engineers program called "Alexa for Astronauts," which will offer live virtual tours of the Johnson Space Center, as well as MIT-backed STEM courses.

Aaron Rubenson, vice president of Amazon's Alexa Everywhere, said in a statement:

Star Trek gave us our initial inspiration for Alexa, and seeing our vision of ambient intelligence come to fruition aboard the Orion spacecraft is deeply exciting and humbling.
We are proud to partner with Lockheed Martin to push the limits of voice technology and artificial intelligence, and we hope that Alexa will help inspire the scientists, astronauts and engineers of the future who will define the next era of space exploration.

▲ References:
https://www.aboutamazon.com/news/devices/alexa-take-me-to-the-moon

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