What’s so important about Nao’s autobiographical memory is that it has the ability to not only learn from astronauts aboard the ISS, but educate new astronauts as well. By simply manipulating the robot’s joints, astronauts give the robot information it needs to mimic their movements and voice commands. It then stores these movements by context and once it’s time for the robot to impart this knowledge on someone else, it perfectly replays the actions. Because crews aboard the ISS change roughly every six months, having something accurately relay information is incredibly critical to any space mission’s success.
Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the first time scientists have thought it a good idea to send a robot to live permanently on the ISS as NASA and DARPA sent one called the Robonaut 2 to the ISS in 2011. For now, this robot simply assists astronauts with what CNRS calls “complicated situations, especially during extra-vehicular outings.” Based largely on the success of the Robonaut 2, interest is high in sending another robot to the ISS to continue to support those on board the space station.
The robot does come with one tiny caveat, however. Though the research and testing has proved successful so far, the researchers have yet to try the thing out in actual space. Due in large part to the fact the robot’s passed its previous tests with flying colors, the team does intend to put the robot in a zero gravity environment to be sure it performs the same way. If all goes according to plan, it likely won’t be long before astronauts traveling to the ISS will be greeted by more than just a smiling face and a pack of vacuum-sealed space food.
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