Kibo the humanoid robot to keep ISS-based astronauts company from next year

kibo the humanoid robot to keep iss based astronauts company from next yearJapanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, set to become the first Japanese commander of the International Space Station (ISS) when he returns to space next year, will have a special buddy called Kibo to keep him company, it’s been reported.

No, Kibo isn’t the name of one of Wakata’s fellow astronauts, nor is it a pet hamster or soft toy. Kibo is, in fact, a humanoid robot, the result of a joint research project conducted by the University of Tokyo’s Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology (RCAST), Robo Garage of Kyoto University, ad firm Dentsu and Toyota.

Though still being built (a sketch of Kibo was released last week and is shown here), the robot is expected to be up and running – quite literally, we assume – in February 2013, in time for its journey in the summer to the Japanese ‘Kibo’Experiment Module aboard the ISS.

With a height of just 34 centimeters and a weight of only 1 kilo, Kibo could be one of the few visitors to the ISS that finds the cramped conditions of the ISS of little hindrance.

The robot’s features include “voice recognition, natural language processing, voice synthesis, telecommunications functions, communication actions, facial recognition camera and a recording camera,” Japan’s Asahi newspaper reported.

Kibo’s hardware is being created by RCAST and Robot Garage, while Dentsu is taking care of its conversational features. Toyota, meanwhile, is developing Kibo’s voice recognition and natural language processing functions.

While up in space, the diminutive robot will spend time transmitting information from the space station back to Mission Control, and will also post messages on Twitter to what’ll no doubt be a huge number of followers.

It’ll also engage in conversation with Wakata when he arrives at the ISS later in the year. Their space-based chat will form part of what is being described as “the world’s first conversation experiment held in outer space between a person and a robot.” How useful such an experiment will be for us mere mortals back on Earth, or indeed for the future of mankind, remains to be seen.

According to Kibo’s website, the robot’s mission is to “help solve the problems brought about by a society that has become more individualized and less communicative.”

A copy of Kibo will be made for public show back on Earth, and will also serve as a back-up for the space-based Kibo – presumably in case it fails to hit it off with the astronauts on the ISS and requests an early return to Earth.

Emerging Tech

Photosynthesizing artificial leaf may be the air-cleaning tool we’ve dreamed of

Engineers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have invented an artificial leaf which could both clean up our air and provide a cost-effective type of fuel. Here's how it works.
Gaming

You're never too broke to enjoy the best free-to-play games

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially popular League of Legends.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Gaming

Take to the virtual skies with these free flight simulators

You don't have to spend the entirety of your paycheck to become a virtual ace, at least when it comes to flight simulation. Our list of the best free flight simulators will let you unleash your inner Maverick.
Emerging Tech

How can digital art created on obsolete platforms be preserved?

As the lines between art and technology continue to blur, digital art experiences become more commonplace. But these developments are raising an important question for art conservationists: How should digital artworks be preserved?
Emerging Tech

Statistician raises red flag about reliability of machine learning techniques

Machine learning is everywhere in science and technology. But how reliable are these techniques really? A statistician argues that questions of accuracy and reproducibility of machine learning have not been fully addressed.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how Facebook taught its Portal A.I. to think like a Hollywood filmmaker

When Facebook introduced its Portal screen-enhanced smart speakers, it wanted to find a way to make video chat as intimate as sitting down for a conversation with a friend. Here's how it did it.
Emerging Tech

Chandra X-ray telescope uncovers evidence of the universe’s missing matter

Where is all of the matter in the universe? NASA's Chandra telescope has uncovered evidence of hot gas strands in the vicinity of a quasar which could explain the missing third of matter which has puzzled astronomers for years.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s space observatory will map the sky with unprecedented detail

NASA is preparing to launch a cutting-edge space observatory to create the most detailed map ever produced of the sky. Doing so will involve surveying hundreds of millions of galaxies. Here's how it plans to do it.
Smart Home

No strings attached: This levitating lamp uses science to defy gravity

Now on Kickstarter, the Levia lamp is a cool industrial-looking lamp which boasts a levitating bulb. Looking for a table light that will dazzle visitors? You've come to the right place.
Emerging Tech

The Great White Shark’s genome has been decoded, and it could help us end cancer

In a significant step for marine and genetic science, researchers have decoded the genome of the great white shark. The genetic code revealed a wealth of insight into what makes these creatures so successful from an evolutionary standpoint.
Emerging Tech

‘Guerrilla rainstorm’ warning system aims to prevent soakings, or worse

Japanese researchers have created a "guerrilla rainstorm" early-warning system aimed at preventing severe soakings, or worse. The team hopes to launch the system before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Mobile

Barbie’s Corvette ain’t got nothing on Sphero’s fully programmable robot car

Sphero is known for devices like the Sphero Bolt and BB-8 Star Wars toy, but now the company is back with another addition to its lineup -- the Sphero RVR. The RVR is a fully programmable robot car that can be expanding with different…
Emerging Tech

Japanese spacecraft will collect a sample from asteroid Ryugu by shooting at it

The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 will soon touch down on the asteroid Ryugu, where it will collect a sample by shooting a bullet into the soil. The sample will be returned to Earth in 2020 to learn about the formation of asteroids.