As we head into a new year and a new decade, let’s take a look at the Crew Interactive Mobile Companion (CIMON), brought to us by IBM, the German Aerospace Center and Airbus, that took up residence on the International Space Station in November. CIMON was the first autonomous free-floating robot aboard the station and the first astronaut assistant. Two weeks ago an updated CIMON-2 was launched for a three-year stay.

What was the update?  Better hardware and better software, of course, that provides more extensive data storage and retrieval functions. But this time CIMON-2 is also loaded with emotional intelligence skills “to help alleviate . . . the social issues that might arise from settings in which a small team works in close quarters over a long period.” For example, the robot has the benefit of the IBM Watson Tone Analyzer, which analyzes emotions during a conversation to sense how people are feeling. Is someone happy? Angry? Depressed?

One of the objectives of the robot design team was to develop countermeasures to “groupthink,” where people who work closely together tend to coalesce in their opinions.  Think of the similarities in opinions found in common news feeds and family/friends confirmations. The emotionally intelligent CIMON-2 is geared to provide objective and even contrarian perspectives when it detects groupthink.

So what’s the take-away? Emotional intelligence is not just some “nice-guy” skill. It provides us and our teams and families with the practical abilities to perform at our best, regardless of the setting–whether in space, in the office or at the dinner table. It brings heart and head together. Now that’s something to celebrate in the New Year!