Japanese researchers have developed Kirobo, a robot designed to provide assistance and companionship to human astronauts who spend months working in space.
Kirobo is programmed to communicate in Japanese and recognize voices and faces. It also is capable of holding a conversation by improvising basic responses.
Although Japanese roboticists have come under scrutiny for making robots that entertain rather than serve practical purposes, Kirobo's developers think it can do both. "I believe robots will be the next smartphone just like Google believes Google Glass will be the next smartphone," says Kirobo's creator Tomotaka Takahashi, a robotics engineer at Tokyo University.
Kirobo recently was sent to the International Space Station in an unmanned rocket. "Interest in space robots is growing more quickly now than 10 years ago," notes the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Ron Diftler, manager of the Robonaut project, which seeks to build the first humanoid robot that can help humans work and explore in space. "The space station is a very busy place and having an extra set of hands, in this case robot hands that can handle maintenance tasks, frees up the crew for more science."
From Financial Times
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