x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

First robot astronaut asks Santa for a toy rocket

Footage released yesterday by the robot’s developers showed Kirobo performing its first mission in space, talking in Japanese with astronaut Koichi Wakata earlier this month to test unscripted, autonomous conversation functions.

Astronaut Koichi Wakata and robot Kirobo had a conversation about Christmas and zero gravity on board the International Space Station this month. EPA
Astronaut Koichi Wakata and robot Kirobo had a conversation about Christmas and zero gravity on board the International Space Station this month. EPA

TOKYO // The first humanoid robot in space may have taken one giant leap for robotkind by making small talk with a human astronaut. But Kirobo the tiny android has something else on its mind: what it will be getting for Christmas.

Footage released yesterday by the robot’s developers showed Kirobo performing its first mission in space, talking in Japanese with astronaut Koichi Wakata earlier this month to test unscripted, autonomous conversation functions.

Mr Wakata said he was glad to meet Kirobo, and asked his robotic companion how it felt being in a zero-gravity environment.

“I’m used to it now, no problem at all,” Kirobo quipped.

Kirobo, who weighs one kilogram and is 32 centimetres tall, is programmed to process questions and select words from its vocabulary to construct an answer, instead of giving preprogrammed responses to specific questions.

“We were able to observe the initial stages of a relationship begin to develop between a human and a robot, and I think that was our biggest success,” the creator of the robot, Tomotaka Takahashi, said.

Kirobo arrived at the International Space Station this summer and experiments with Kirobo will continue until it returns to Earth at the end of 2014.

In the meantime, the robot is looking forward to Christmas.

When asked what gift he would like to receive, Kirobo said: “I want a toy rocket. Let’s ask Santa Claus.”

Associated Press