Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata and a Japan-made humanoid robot Kirobo have performed a series of space-based conversation sessions aboard the International Space Station (ISS) this month.
The robot, developed by Japan's Dentsu Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo, Robo Garage and Toyota, was sent to the space station on 4 August aboard the Japanese H-2B rocket. However, the 34-cm robot, speaking only Japanese, had to wait until November for the arrival of his human counterpart, astronaut Koichi Wakata.
The robot was sent to space with a mission to facilitate the coexistence of people and robots, and to explore possible future deployment of communication robots in outer space.
All the conversation he has had and will have in the future with the astronaut will be carefully recorded and data submitted to the involved research institutions including the Japanese space agency JAXA for detailed analysis.
Kirobo, weighing about 1kg, is equipped with software for voice recognition, natural language processing and speech synthesis. It also has telecommunications capabilities and is fitted with a recording camera, a facial recognition camera and systems allowing physical gestures and movements.