Robots are in the news a lot lately. From Google’s mysterious plans to do something vaguely robotic over the next ten years (we’re not allowed to know exactly what), to Amazon’s proposal to build flying drones for international deliveries, it seems that the metal munchkins are everywhere, but none are as cute, nor as interesting, as Kirobo.
Resembling a cross between a mid-90’s SNES protagonist and an overgrown Lego man, Kirobo the robot stands at just 33CM tall (which is still positively gargantuan for a Lego man). His claim to fame? Kirobo is the world’s first robot astronaut and is currently orbiting the Earth aboard the International Space Station (ISS), where he has been since August of this year.
Kirobo was designed and built during a collaboration between an advertising company called Dentsu, the University of Tokyo and car manufacturers Toyota. He was designed as a companion for Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who is perhaps best known as the first Japanese person to command the ISS.
Kirobo’s creators hope that the diminutive robot will provide emotional support to Wakata, providing interesting sociological data regarding whether robotic companions can comfort individuals who are subjected to long periods of isolation.
Kirobo has been specially designed to navigate zero gravity environments, he can also speak and understand spoken commands. In fact, Kirobo has many of the same properties as a smartphone in that he can record video and make (very) long distance calls (although his high score on ‘Juice Cubes’ is not yet a matter of public record). Kirobo’s facial recognition software means that he can recognise and react to certain individuals (presumably empathizing with their moods).
In addition to being a cutting edge piece of technology, Kirobo also appears to be of a friendly disposition, the little guy has already called us from space, saying, “My dream is to see human beings and robots live together as friends,”
Kirobo also reportedly requested Wakata’s presence at the station, saying “I really want to see you soon”, he’ll be waiting a long time, however, as Wakata is not due at the ISS for about eleven months.