The Japanese communication robot destined to join the crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) this summer recently underwent some zero gravity testing. The Kibo Robot Project, organized by Dentsu Inc. in response to a proposal made by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, unveiled the final design of its diminutive humanoid robot and its Earthbound counterpart. Watch the cutest robot-related video of the year after the break.
As we reported earlier, the robot is based on a commercially-available kit called Robi that stands 13.4 inches (34 cm) tall and weighs 2.2 pounds (1 kg). Toyota contributed natural language processing technology, allowing the Kibo robot to understand Japanese speech. It responds using a synthesized voice, and is equipped with a camera that can perform face recognition. Its primary duty will be to entertain Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who will receive encouraging tweets from Earth through the robot.
It was designed by famed robot creator Tomotaka Takahashi (ROBO-GARAGE, Tokyo University RCAST), who previously built a Guinness World Record-setting robot mascot for Panasonic's EVOLTA line of batteries. The EVOLTA robot climbed a rope to the top of the Grand Canyon, scooted around the Le Mans race course, and completed an Iron Man triathlon. This (Northern Hemisphere) summer his latest creation will take up residence inside the experimental module of the ISS.
More than 2,462 names were submitted to the project's website, and "Kirobo" and "Mirata" were the winners. While Kirobo will be sent into space, a duplicate called Mirata will stay on Earth to perform a variety of public relations missions such as teaching schoolchildren about Japan's involvement with the ISS program.
You can watch the robot undergo zero gravity testing aboard a plane (as it performs the dreaded "Vomit Comet" maneuver) in the following video. A promotional video dramatizing the robot's creation and showing it's interactive capabilities follows after that.