One of the most popular tropes in science fiction stories is the robot sidekick. Whether it is R2D2 keeping Luke company in the swamps of Dagobah, or Scott Trakker and T-Bob from the MASK cartoon, or DC Comics’ Booster Gold and his trusty companion Skeets, pairing up a traveler with a robot buddy is a common occurrence. And now, as with any good science fiction idea, this concept is finding its way into science fact.
A Japanese company has created a robot buddy designed to act as a companion to space explorers and, perhaps someday, act as a friend for lonely earthbound people as well. The little guy is just over a foot tall, and has been dubbed “Kibo,” after the space station module it will call home. Kibo will be the e-buddy for astronaut Koichi Wakata when he heads to the international space station next summer. He has the ability to chat in Japanese, take pictures and even post updates on Twitter. Thus, he is smarter and more functional than most reality TV stars.
Kibo will also have speech recognition capabilities and boast an expressive face, all in his one kilogram frame. The robot is designed to help solve social problems through communication, and will allow lonely astronauts to find something to talk to and form a bond with. The human-shaped robot has been designed by a team of Tokyo researchers working in tandem with an ad agency, all at the prompting of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
The little stress reliever will have a new name when he blasts off in February. Hopefully that name is not HAL.
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