Meet Kirobo, the International Space Station’s newest and tiniest astronaut.
Don’t worry; we’ll wait for you to finish “Awwwwwwwwwwing.”
This diminutive robot was birthed from a collaborative effort between Dentsu, the University of Tokyo’s Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, Robo Garage, Toyota, and JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (similar to NASA). Heading the project is the incredibly handsome Tomotaka Takahashi, who explained that Kirobo will be sent to the ISS via an unmanned rocket in August. The robot will be working and chatting with Kouichi Wakata, who will become the first Japanese astronaut to act as commander of the station when he arrives in November.
▼Kirobo: So cute even gravity gets distracted
So what will Kirobo be doing on the ISS? After all, when it comes to space travel, every ounce counts due to astronomical launch costs and limited storage space.
To answer that question, first you need to understand a little bit more about what Kirobo can do: talk.
Actually, Kirobo doesn’t just talk—it communicates, as can be see in this video where the robot exchanges greetings with a reporter and gives a brief self-introduction. The robot explains that its name is meant to represent “hope for the future.” Since Kibo, in Japanese, means “hope,” you can see how the team mixed “kibo” and “robotto” together to get “Kirobo.”
As is mentioned in the video, it weighs only about 1 kilogram and has a twin named Mirata, who will remain on earth or switch places with Kirobo if there are any problems just before launch.
▼Kirobo and Mirata at their unveiling. They’re identical except for the chest decals.
In addition to conversing naturally with people, Kirobo can also rise to a standing position on its own and adapt to floating in zero-gravity. Unfortunately, its linguistic capabilities are currently limited to Japanese.
Once they reach the ISS, Kirobo will be kept in the Japanese Experiment Module, better known as Kibo. There sure is a lot of hope in the Japanese space program.
Anyway, the robot will partake in experiments with Astronaut Wakata, including testing its abilities to communicate naturally with humans. As Kirobo says, wisely stealing from the best, “This is a small step for me, but a giant leap for robotkind.”
In order to make sure that Kirobo will be able to deal with zero gravity properly, Takahashi and his team took the robot on a flight in a Micro Gravity Plane. The robot demonstrated it’s ability to navigate while floating in air, as well as twisting, turning, running, and shaking hands while remaining in place.
▼ “Unh! Break it down!”
In addition to their experimental conversations, Kirobo will be taking commands from Wakata, who will walk the robot through various test procedures. The goal is to see how well robots and human can interact, hopefully leading the way to robots taking more active roles in assisting astronauts on missions. Kirobo will also be able to use its camera to check on Wakata when they are talking to help keep tabs on Wakata’s health.
▼Here’s a “commercial” dramatically explaining the project.
And, as you may expect, Japanese Twitter users love Kirobo!
Kirobo is so cuuuuute! I want to live with a robot too, like the kind of future you often see in movies.
Since this morning, all I’ve been thinking about is how cute Kirobo is!!
The way it did training in zero gravity and the way it talks are just so adorable! Kirobo is so cute. I was really fascinated when they were doing the shake testing.
So, what do you think dear readers? Are you ready to have a Kirobo in your home?
Source: Naver Matome