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An advanced version of Amazon’s Alexa is set to cater to ‘virtual crew members’ during NASA’s upcoming Artemis I mission to the moon.
Set to launch this year, Artemis I will see the first woman and the first person of colour land on the surface of the moon, more than 50 years since humans first set foot there.
The new version of Alexa will be included on the mission after being designed by engineers at Amazon, with the goal of finding out whether the voice-recognition technology would be useful for future space missions.
See the announcement for Alexa’s venture into space below:
The smart-speaker will be built into a new capsule called Orion that is set to travel in conjunction with the Space Launch System (SLS), which will carry crew and cargo to the moon. Alexa forms part of Callisto, a technology demonstration payload embedded into the Orion spacecraft and built in collaboration with engineers from Amazon, Cisco, and Lockheed Martin, Amazon explains.
Orion is intended to carry passengers, however as this is the first time two vehicles will fly together, Orion will be empty of humans for the test launch.
Howard Hu, Deputy Orion Program Manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, has said voice-activation technology has the ability to take the already-advanced Orion ‘to the next level’, Mashable reports, adding that ‘enabling the interactive computer systems of science fiction spaceships to become a reality for the next generation of explorers’.
The ‘virtual crew’ are expected to ask Alexa questions about speed or how the capsule is performing, with the speaker set to respond with real-time data from Orion. As internet connectivity is limited in Orion is limited, Alexa will be able to respond to a range of pre-determined questions and commands, as well as having the ability to change the lighting inside Orion.
Aaron Rubenson, vice president of Alexa Everywhere at Amazon, noted that the Star Trek computer was the company’s original inspiration for Alexa, so it’s ‘exciting and humbling to see our vision for ambient intelligence come to life on board Orion’.
He added, ‘We’re proud to be working with Lockheed Martin to push the limits of voice technology and AI, and we hope Alexa’s role in the mission helps inspire future scientists, astronauts, and engineers who will define this next era of space exploration.’
In line with Alexa’s journey around the Moon, Amazon is set to allow Alexa users to follow along by receiving information about Artemis I and notifications about key milestones in the mission.
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