Robots in Spaaaaace! Kirobo Takes Flight

Kirobo will be the name of the newest member of the International Space Station, launched from Japan early in the morning on August 5 aboard the Kounotori 4 (HTV4) unmanned cargo transfer vehicle (the fourth of its kind to be launched from Japan, hence the numerical identifier). The cargo transfer vehicle is meant to be discarded after a successful docking has been made. Members of the Kibo Robot Project watched as it launched from Tanegashima Space Center and hope for it to arrive safely at the ISS tomorrow morning. The project is ambitious and two-fold. The Kirobo is designed for astronaut duty and the Mirata is the design meant for earth bound use.

Kirobo

Kirobo

Kiro is just over a foot tall and will be able to hold conversations with astronauts on long space flights. The project is designed to encourage robot/human interactions for a human society that becomes more and more isolated in space and at home. The robot includes features such as face and voice recognition technology, emotion recognition and language cognition, and an internal camera. The Kiro robot has been specially tested to withstand the zero gravity conditions of spaceflight.

Kiro speaks Japanese and will be under the command of JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakat during its eighteen-month stay. The Japanese cargo ship which carries Kirobo and 1,880 pounds of supplies will be captured by the International Space Station’s robotic arm, controlled by NASA astronauts Karen Nyberg and Chris Cassidy on Aug. 9, at 7:29 a.m. EST, and be attached to the space station at about 9:30 a.m. EST. You can see all of this at NASA TV, live.

Video and images courtesy of Kibo Robot Project which is sponsored by Toyota Motor Corp., Dentsu Inc., Robo Garage, and The University of Tokyo.

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