On Sunday morning the world’s first talking humanoid astronaut left Japan and headed off for the International Space Station.
The robot, named Kirobo, weighs only 1 kilogram and stands 34 centmeters from head-to-toe. Kirobo is travelling to the ISS along with five tons of supplies for the crew and will be joined by the Japanese astronaut Koich Wakata later this year.
The robot was designed by Tomotka Takahashi of the University of Tokyo’s Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology (RCAST), Robo Garage of Kyoto University and the ad firm Dentsu.
The plan is for Kirobo and Wakata to conduct the first ever space-based communication experiments between a robot and a human.
An Emotional Welcome
Kirobo has been designed with functions that will make conversations more natural. The robot has voice recognition capabilites and telecommunications functions. It has the ability to process natural language and can respond to different facial expressions.
Kirobo and Wakata are already well acquainted with one another, so the robot should display emotion when the two reunite in space later this year.
The creators of Kirobo also want to explore whether machines such as this can be a source of emotional support for people who are isolated over a long period of time. Because Japan’s aging population are living increasingly isolated lives, researchers feel that robots could be a solution, interacting and showing emotion to those in need.
“I wish for this robot to function as a mediator between a person and machine, or a person and the Internet, and sometimes even between people,” creator Takahashi said.
Kirobo has described the mission into space as: “One small step for me, a giant leap for robots.”
[Image via huffingtonpost]