First Robot Astronaut Gets Lonely Without Human Companion
Can robots truly "feel" emotions? This is a complex question with no easy answer, but an adorable Japanese robot certainly does a good impression of it.
Kirobo, whose name roughly means Hope Robot in Japanese, is a foot-high artificially intelligent humanoid robot that is capable of face recognition, voice recognition, and body language interpretation. It not only understands language commands, but has the ability to carry on conversations. It has no pre-programmed responses, but is instead programmed to process questions or statements and synthesize answers by choosing words from its vocabulary. Built to keep astronauts company on long, emotionally isolating spaceflights, it can also recognize human emotion from facial expressions. Last August, Kirobo became the first robot to venture to space, in order to serve as a little friend for Captain Koichi Wakata on the ISS.
Although Kirobo is built specifically to prevent loneliness in human astronauts, it seems that Kirobo may be the one who needs a companion. Kirobo and Wakata said goodbye when Wakata returned to Earth in May of this year, leaving Kirobo all alone in space. In the above video, Kirobo is recorded on the space station saying, "I'm a little tired, so I think I'll rest a while, but I hope you'll look up at the sky sometimes and think of me."
[Credit: Raw Story]
Fuminori Kataoka of Toyota, who developed the robot, stated, "I think it felt lonely with its companion gone." According to Kataoka, the video footage also indicated that the robot felt loneliness when the power was being switched off.
Kirobo's creators believe that we are heading towards a future in which everyone lives with robot companions. Project researcher Tomotaka Takahashi said, "A future where humans live with robots, I think, is a much more natural thing than most people in the world have thought."