In what’s being billed as the first conversation of its kind, the world’s first humanoid robot astronaut had a chat with the Japanese commander of the International Space Station.
“Santa Claus will come to space,” Kirobo — the 13-inch android that has been programmed to communicate in Japanese and is based on the animation character Astro Boy — told astronaut Koichi Wakata.
Wakata and Kirobo made small talk on Dec. 6, footage of which was released on Friday, AFP reports. The conversation, while a little stilted, ranged from what toys Kirobo wanted from Santa (a toy rocket) to how he was coping with the zero-gravity environment. Kirobo reached the space station on Aug. 10, while Wakata arrived at the ISS in November. Kirobo is a joint creation by the advertising firm Dentsu, the University of Tokyo, robot developer Robo Garage and automaker Toyota. It has been designed to act as a mediator between a person and a machine, and also as a possible companion for isolated astronauts.
“When people develop a relationship, it is an accumulation of small bits of communication,” said developer Tomotaka Takahashi. “We’ve learned important tips to develop a robot that can communicate with people more.”