If you have been thinking Android OS is for smartphones alone, you are wrong. The world’s first human-android robot astronaut has paved way for future human-android interaction & has currently set two Guinness World Records!
Following an 18-month stay on-board the International Space Station, Kirobo, a small android able to have conversations in Japanese, has set records for First Companion Robot in Space and Highest altitude for a robot to have a conversation.
On 4 August 2013, KIROBO left earth via a HIIB rocket with the mission to serve as a companion robot to the astronaut, Koichi Wakata. Measuring 34 cm tall and weighing 1 kg, Kirobo can recognise faces, and has a sophisticated voice recognition system. After succeeding in having multiple meaningful conversation with Koichi Wakata, the humanoid went on to achieve the highest altitude for a robot to have a conversation record on 7 December 2013 at an altitude of 414.2 kilometers above sea level.
The robot astronaut was developed as part of a five-year, joint research project carried out in collaboration between advertising agency Dentsu, the University of Tokyo’s Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, Robo Garage, Toyota Motor Corporation, and JAXA the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
A year and half off planet is quite a long time. One of the project’s main aims was to test if a robot could provide psychological support to a human subject experiencing severe loneliness – such as an astronaut during an extended stay in space – by acting as their conversational partner. To achieve this, Kirobo was equipped with voice recognition, natural language processing (NLP), speech synthesis and a facial recognition camera, among other abilities
On February 10, Kirobo came safely back to Earth aboard SpaceX’s CRS-5 Dragon cargo supply spacecraft which splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off California, arriving back in Japan on March 12. The robot’s first words on returning home were – “From up above, the Earth glowed like a blue LED”. It is also believed Kirobo has the ability to feel lonely. In a video called “last message from the universe” he said, “I’m a little tired, so I think I’ll rest a while, but I hope you’ll look up at the sky sometimes and think of me.” which was during when the astronaut had returned safely home before kirobo’s arrival.
Other potential applications for the research is helping the elderly and disabled populations in the UK and US, and the growing number of people living alone. Its ultimate application is looking at something like ‘companionship’ for people on their own. With automated systems, self driving cars, and the new robot helpers in space, it is predicted the way in which we interact with technology is going to undergo another massive shift.
On the next page are more images of the Japanese speaking human-android robot in space, at the Guinness world records & also amazing videos of Kirobo live in space!