The world’s smallest astronaut is heading into deep orbit.
The robot, which is equipped with voice recognition programming, will record and relay communications to Mirata, a twin machine back on Earth. He will also record conversations with Kochi Wakata, the incoming ISS commander assuming leadership in November.
The origin of the term “Kirobo” is a mix of the Japanese words for “hope” and “robot.” He is able to perceive human faces and experience empathy and compassion, making it far more intelligent than existing question-and-answer devices like ones that offer physical therapy and assist with walking.
“We are trying to help create a society where humans and robots coexist,” said Fuminori Kataoka, the project’s general manager, in a recent video.
Kataoka wants to find out whether the robot can offer emotional support to astronauts; he hopes Kirobo can serve as a mediator between people and machines.
This A.I. may bring to mind a corrupted super-machine like HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey or Gerty from Moon. But those behind Kirobo — Toyota, ad firm Dentsu and the University of Tokyo — say the goal isn’t a space-age Cyberdyne Systems.
The talking bot is expected to arrive at the ISS on Friday.