First talking astronaut robot performs space mission: Video

Fri Dec 20, 2013 08:22:26

The first humanoid robot in space has performed its first mission at the International Space Station, holding a series of conversations with a Japanese astronaut and keeping him company.

Footage released on Thursday showed the robot, named Kirobo, and the commander of the International Space Centre, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, making small talk.

The conversations are part of a series of experiments aimed at testing the robot's autonomous conversation functions.

Instead of pre-programmed phrases that respond solely to specific questions, Kirobo is programmed so that it can process the question being asked - and in turn select its own words from its vocabulary to construct an answer.

In one of the first experiments, Wakata told Kirobo he was glad to meet his robotic companion, and asked Kirobo how he felt about being in a zero-gravity environment. "I'm used to it now, no problem at all", Kirobo replied.

The creator of the robot, Tomotaka Takahashi, said the autonomous functions meant nobody knew how well Kirobo might be able to answer questions.
Takahashi said that conversations smoothed out over time, despite there being awkward pauses at first.

Kirobo took off from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre, in Kagoshima Prefecture, this summer. He was joined by Wakata when he arrived at the International Space Station in November.

The project is a joint endeavour between advertising company Dentsu, automobile maker Toyota, and Takahashi. The name Kirobo derives from the Japanese words "hope" and "robot", while Mirata comes from the word "future".

The experiments in space with Kirobo will continue until it returns to Earth at the end of 2014. In the meantime, Kirobo has asked Santa for a toy rocket this Christmas.


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