Illustration for article titled Japans new communications robot will prevent astronauts from getting lonely in space — by being absolutely adorable

It may look and act nothing like David from Prometheus, but big things come from humble beginnings. Tokyo University researchers and robot creator Tomotaka Takahashi are developing a tiny humanoid robot that will talk to and provide company for a Japanese astronaut during an upcoming six-month mission aboard the International Space Station. The 34-centimeter tall robot will be sent into space next summer in preparation for the arrival of ISS mission commander Koichi Wakata.


Called the Kibo Robot Project (Kibo means "hope" in Japanese), the organizers are working on a robot-human interface for use during extended missions. But its ultimate purpose extends beyond that. They describe the purpose of the project this way:

The Kibo robot has a special mission: To help solve the problems brought about by a society that has become more individualized and less communicative.

Nowdays, more and more people are living alone. It's not just the elderly — with today's changing lifestyles, it's people of all ages.

With a new style of robot-human interface, perhaps a way to solve this problem could be found. This is the goal we have in mind for this project.


To that end, the team, which includes engineers from Toyota, are developing a "communications robot" — one that will be able to recognize Wakata's face and speak to him in Japanese. It will also take photos during the trip and send information to Earth from the Kibo laboratory on the space station.

Last Thursday, a cartoon sketch of what the robot will look like was released to the public. It'll have big red boots and a black-and-silver figure. As for it's name, nothing has been chosen yet, but the organizers are asking the public for suggestions.

Source: Japan Today.

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