A robot that acts as a friend for lonely astronauts in space has today been honoured with two Guinness World Records titles.
Kirobo, a small android able to have conversations in Japanese, has set records for first companion robot in space and highest altitude for a robot to have a conversation following an 18-month stay onboard the International Space Station.
Measuring 34 cm tall and weighing 1 kg, Kirobo can recognise faces, and has a sophisticated voice recognition system.
Able to stabilise itself in zero-gravity conditions, its onboard voice synthesis coupled with a library of pre-set gestures and an advanced language processing system allows it to speak in an uncannily natural manner.
The robot astronaut was developed as part of a five-year, joint research project carried out in collaboration between advertising agency Dentsu, the University of Tokyo’s Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, Robo Garage, Toyota Motor Corporation, and JAXA the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
One of the project’s main aims was to test if a robot could provide psychological support to a human subject experiencing severe loneliness - such as an astronaut during an extended stay in space - by acting as their conversational partner.
Kirobo left earth via a HIIB rocket on 4 August 2013, with the mission to serve as a companion robot to the astronaut, Koichi Wakata.
After arriving at the ISS on the 10th, Kirobo gave its first speech eleven days later, declaring:“On August 21, 2013, a robot took one small step toward a brighter future for all.”
The humanoid went on to achieve the highest altitude for a robot to have a conversation record on 7 December 2013 at an altitude of 414.2 kilometers above sea level after succeeding in having multiple meaningful conversations with Wakata.
On February 10, Kirobo came safely back to Earth aboard SpaceX’s CRS-5 Dragon cargo supply spacecraft which splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off California, arriving back in Japan on March 12.
Kirobo’s first words after returning home were: “From up above, the Earth glowed like a blue LED.”
To mark the project’s achievements Erika Ogawa, Erika Ogawa vice president of Guinness World Records Japan, and official adjudicator Aya McMillan today presented official GWR certificates to the team behind Kirobo during an event at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo.
Looking back over the robot's history-making stay in space, Yorichika Nishijima, Kirobo's Communications Designer told TNW “The project launched five years ago, when nobody believed in human beings and robots co-existing. From that perspective we wanted to send it into space to show that robots and human beings… can go into a new era. It’s a sort of symbolic project so people can understand how people can interact with robots”.