Out in the cold, dark recesses of outer space, the stretches of desolate solitude would drive most people bonkers. We are rarely our own ideal company for any time longer than it takes to fully charge a cell phone. Even if there are other members of the crew, your own head is there, waiting for you to be alone so it can slam you with the paranoia of mechanical problems at the same time as making you nostalgic for your first kiss. Luckily, Japan is here to assist in introducing utter insanity to your psychological profile by presenting a communications robot to make space seem less lonely.
You may remember robotics genius Tomotaka Takahashi from his Robo Garage days, or maybe from his Evolta battery-powered robot that climbed part of the Grand Canyon a few years ago. Even if you don’t know who he is, it takes two seconds of looking at his work to make Robby the Robot look like a Robo Habilis.
His lastest project is the Kiro Robot Project, in conjunction with researchers from Tokyo University. The as-yet-nameless robot is 34 centimeters tall and will accompany mission commander Koichi Wakata for six-month mission aboard the International Space Station in the summer of 2013. It contains the technology necessary to recognize Wakata’s face and carry on a conversation with him, all while taking photos of the trip, relaying information back to the Kibo lab in Japan, and possibly complaining about how much worse the food is compared to back home.
While the immediate purpose seems to be adding social interaction into an astronaut’s life, Kibo has more widespread plans for its semi-sentient Teddy Ruxpin. Considering how central to space this project is, the unofficial mission statement is rather lofty.
The Kibo robot has a special mission: To help solve the problems brought about by a society that has become more individualized and less communicative.
Nowdays, more and more people are living alone. It’s not just the elderly — with today’s changing lifestyles, it’s people of all ages.
With a new style of robot-human interface, perhaps a way to solve this problem could be found. This is the goal we have in mind for this project.
It doesn’t say anything about penetration holes or vibrating uvulas, so I think we can be certain it’s in no way a sex doll, and no part of it appears to be an ergonomic pillow. So maybe it is just a conversation piece. I hope it was created to sound a tad more natural than, “My, those latest sports scores sure are surprising if they’re not what you expected,” or “I bet space isn’t as dark as your heart. What are your sins?”
Follow the above link to the website to enter or vote on a name for the robot. My vote goes to “Daniel-san the Revelator.” Here’s your sketched inspiration.