Swiss Space Days 2020

The Swiss Space Days offer – according to the responsible persons – a platform to exchange experiences and to support cooperation. It is possible to listen to prominent speakers involving ESA directors, representatives of Swiss companies and of the Large European System Integrators. “A high level panel is closing the morning session of the first day. In the afternoon of the first Day, a session will cater to the needs of companies and a parallel session will address the interests of the scientific community. The second day is dedicated to space applications and downstream services using Earth Observation, Telecom and/or Navigation data. A panel with representatives of institutional programmes and of user companies will conclude the Swiss Space Days …” (Website Swiss Space Days) On the marketplace there are several offers and requests for partnerships and research cooperations, for example regarding IGLUNA (“IGLUNA is a platform gathering students from all around the world to demonstrate innovative space technologies”) and the voicebot SPACE THEA (“SPACE THEA is designed to accompany astronauts to Mars and to show them empathy and emotions.”). More information via ssd2020.b2match.io.

Towards SPACE THEA

Social robots are robots that come close to animals and humans, interact and communicate with them. They reproduce characteristics of animals and humans in their behavior and appearance. They can be implemented both as hardware robots and as software robots. The SPACE THEA project should have already started in March 2020. Because of COVID-19 it had to be postponed. Now Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel starts with the preparatory work. In spring and summer 2021 the programming of the voicebot is then carried out. SPACE THEA is designed to accompany astronauts to Mars and to show them empathy and emotions. In the best case, she should also be able to provide psychological counseling, for example, based on cases from the literature. The project will use findings from social robotics, but also from machine ethics. The results will be available by autumn 2021.

SPACE THEA

Space travel includes travel and transport to, through and from space for civil or military purposes. The take-off on earth is usually done with a launch vehicle. The spaceship, like the lander, is manned or unmanned. The target can be the orbit of a celestial body, a satellite, planet or comet. Man has been to the moon several times, now man wants to go to Mars. The astronaut will not greet the robots that are already there as if he or she had been lonely for months. For on the spaceship he or she had been in the best of company. SPACE THEA spoke to him or her every day. When she noticed that he or she had problems, she changed her tone of voice, the voice became softer and happier, and what she said gave the astronaut hope again. How SPACE THEA really sounds and what she should say is the subject of a research project that will start in spring 2021 at the School of Business FHNW. Under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Oliver Bendel, a student is developing a voicebot that shows empathy towards an astronaut. The scenario is a proposal that can also be rejected. Maybe in these times it is more important to have a virtual assistant for crises and catastrophes in case one is in isolation or quarantine. However, the project in the fields of social robotics and machine ethics is entitled “THE EMPATHIC ASSISTANT IN SPACE (SPACE THEA)”. The results – including the prototype – will be available by the end of 2021.