Friday, August 9, 2013
Kirobo: the robot of hope
Since we’re on the topic of robots, there is something that captured my interest with the more recent supplies transport to the International Space Station (ISS). The Japanese cargo ship includes a robot which will be the companion of the only Japanese astronaut (Koichi Wakata) in the ISS come November (the robot is flying a couple of months in advance).
The cargo ship left earth last Saturday 3rd August, and is expected to dock on the 9th.
While the robot (named Kirobo) is only 13 inches high and weighs around 1 kg, this small wonder will be the focus of research and development in human-robot interaction. Kirobo derived its name from a combination of two words: ‘Kibo’, which means ‘hope’ in Japanese, and ‘robot’.
Kirobo naturally speaks Japanese and has voice and speech recognition, natural language processing, speech synthesis, and face recognition. The robot is also designed to adapt to ‘living’ in gravity-absent space, ensuring that the robot knows how to move about and talk in this weightless environment. Kirobo will also assist Mr Wakata with experiments to be conducted in space.
Incidentally, the robot has a twin. Mirata will stay here on Earth and monitor the progress of Kirobo and help out with problems or malfunctions, if any.
I, for one, will be among the interested parties here in earth to keep track of how Kirobo will fare. This is definitely history in the making!
For further information, visit the Kirobo Project at kibo-robo.jp/en/.
Kirobo fans can also follow his exploits on Twitter at @Kibo_robo. The tweets are predominantly in Japanese though, but it's interspersed with photos and links so it's still worth following.