Every now and then we get reminded that we live in the 21st Century. If you told someone in 1980’s that there would be robot astronauts in the future they would probably laugh at you or think that you’ve been reading too many science fiction novels. The fact is, the future is here. Kirobo (Japan’s first robot astronaut) embarked on a journey to the International Space Station (ISS) in an unmanned cargo spacecraft on Sunday.
Kirobo gets his name from “kibo” (the Japanese word for “hope”) and “robot”. Before the launch Kirobo described his mission as “one small step for me, a giant leap for robots”. In a style that could be compared to Buck Rogers, Lost in Space or Doctor Who he will be joined by the first Japanese commander of the ISS (Koichi Wakata) and will be in space for the remainder of 2013 and most of 2014.
Kirobo is quite tiny: he is only 34 centimeters tall, weighs 1 kilogram and speaks Japanese. He might look like a toy, but he’s not. He has some serious capabilities which include natural language processing, voice and speech recognition, speech synthesis, telecommunications, video recording and facial recognition. He is also custom designed to navigate in a zero-gravity environment and will be Wakata’s sidekick in various experiments. They are going to test how machines can help astronauts with their work and they will be making history – they will take part in the first ever space-based communication experiments between robots and humans.
Kirobo will be arriving at the ISS on Friday, but Wakata will only arrive in November. Wakata is scheduled to take command of the $100 billion ISS project in March next year. Kirobo’s twin brother and backup crew member Mirata will remain on earth. Kirobo (and his twin brother Mirata) were designed by Tomtaka Takahashi (University of Tokyo Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology), Robo Garage (Kyoto University), the Toyota Motor Corporation and Japanese advertising firm Dentsu. Check out the ITN News report about this amazing robot below:
This is pretty impressive if you ask me. What do you think of Kirobo? Leave a comment and let me know. Feedback is appreciated and welcome here.
Watch this space for regular updates in the Gadgets category on the Junk Mail Blog.