Just how human-sounding is Kirobo, the first talking robot on the station? This amusing conversation, recorded on the International Space Station and broadcast on a Toyota YouTube channel, shows a pint-sized robot that not only responds to questions, but also gestures and moves around in a scary person-like way.
As Kirobo chats with Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata — who is excellent at deadpan, by the way — the two discussed matters such as how the Earth looks from space, the Japanese robotic arm Kibo and — right at the end — the most important difference between Kirobo and his backup, Mirata.
We don’t want to spoil the joy of the conversation for you by repeating what Kirobo says, but let’s just say there’s something special about watching a Japanese space robot make a reference to the first landing on the moon, which was hailed as a huge technological achievement when it happened in 1969.
The 13.4-inch (0.34 meter) Kirobo is sponsored by Toyota and the University of Tokyo and is supposed to be able to pick up on the facial expressions of crewmates. The robot will be working closely with Wakata during Expedition 38 and then Expedition 39, when Wakata assumes command of station.
One goal is to see how well humans and semi-autonomous robots can work together in space. To see Kirobo’s first words from station, check out our past story from September.