Astronauts and their toys

Astronauts and their toys

In space toy news, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is sending an anime robot to the International Space Station (ISS) to add “more humanity” to space exploration.

The unnamed robot, named Kibo (from the Japanese kibo, or “Royal Baby“), is one of two humanoid robots developed by a University of Tokyo researcher as an alternative to NASA’s Project Space Barbie.

Lead designer Tomotaka Takahashi explained that Japanese people “sometimes talk to their pets, even if they’re a turtle or a fish”, and are “uncomfortable talking to square gadgets” such as iPhone’s Siri. A spokesman for Apple Computer, who requested anonymity because he couldn’t tell Apple’s Siri from Tom Cruise’s daughter Suri, insisted that Siri was not square. “Make no mistake,” he claimed, “Siri is a complete professional on the job, but you should see her on the weekends. She really lets her freak flag fly!” The spokesman said that Apple plans to release its latest version of the iTurtle sometime in 2014.

According to reports, the robot (pictured above) will be involved in experimental tasks such as mixing liquids and recognizing faces, while “encourag[ing] people to be willing to communicate”.  Kibo is expected to become the first fully functional space bartender by 2034, when he turns 21.

In the meantime, Kibo will be working with the astronauts double-checking the results of space experiments and tech support, tasks that can easily be performed by experimental space technology.

A second unnamed robot named Kibo (from the Japanese kibo or “How come he gets to go into space and I don’t?”) will remain on Earth. Kibo’s plan to join his brother was scrubbed after he went AWOL during a training mission in the Netherlands. He was later found just outside the Emmen Zoo, laying on the ground and waving his arms wildly.  No cause was given.

One problem facing astronauts on long space missions is crew boredom. One ISS crewmember tried to address this in 2007 by bringing his favorite game with him, only to encounter problems trying to play Jenga in a weightless environment. If Kibo’s technology is proven reliable, JAXA plans to use it as a companion for seniors citizens living alone or on isolating deep-space missions. A planned joint NASA/JAXA program to send senior citizens on isolating deep-space missions alone is on hold due to budgetary constraints.

JAXA is asking the public for help in naming the two robots, claiming that calling them both Kibo is too confusing. Internet polls at the time of this article indicated that the leading candidates were “Miley Cyrus”, “Siria”, and “Royal Baby”.

(Click the picture to see the original article.)

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