Skip to main content

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

Japanese 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.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Here are all the science projects that SpaceX will deliver to the ISS
Airbus workers unpack the Bartolomeo platform at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for its launch to the International Space Station.

In a couple of weeks, SpaceX will be launching a Dragon cargo spacecraft bound for the International Space Station (ISS), carrying not only supplies for the astronauts but also a range of scientific equipment and research technology. The cargo includes tools for researching everything from growing human heart cells to making more comfortable sneakers.

One of the largest additions to the ISS will be the Bartolomeo facility, a European Space Agency project to provide more room for scientific experiments by attaching to the outside of the space station. Potential uses for the extended space include "Earth observation, robotics, material science, and astrophysics," according to NASA.

Read more
Resupply mission to the ISS carries cheese and gummy sweets to hungry astronauts
A Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply spacecraft launched on an Antares 230+ rocket from the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A at Wallops at 3:21 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020

A Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply spacecraft launched on an Antares 230+ rocket from the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A at Wallops at 3:21 p.m. EST Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020 NASA

After nearly a week's delay, a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft was successfully launched yesterday from Virginia, carrying supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

Read more
Watch record-breaking astronaut Christina Koch return to Earth on Wednesday
The Soyuz MS-13 crew spacecraft approaching the International Space Station

Record-breaking NASA astronaut Christina Koch and two of her colleagues will complete their missions aboard the International Space Station (ISS) this week and head back to Earth, and their departure and landing will be shown live on NASA TV.

Koch will have spent 328 consecutive days in space, during which she broke the record for the longest single-duration spaceflight by a woman, and also participated in the first all-woman spacewalk along with her colleague Jessica Mier. She is also seventh on the list of American astronauts who have spent the most time in space, and will have completed the second-longest single spaceflight stay by any American astronaut after Scott Kelly.

Read more