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Japan Launches Talking Humanoid Robot Into Space

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the nobody-can-hear-your-robot dept.

Space 87

An anonymous reader writes "Kirobo, a talking humanoid robot, has been launched into space and is headed to the International Space Station. From the article: 'Japan has launched the world's first talking humanoid robot "astronaut" toward the International Space Station. Kirobo — derived from the Japanese words for "hope" and "robot" — was among five tons of supplies and machinery on a rocket launched Sunday from Tanegashima in southwestern Japan, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, said. The childlike robot was designed to be a companion for astronaut Koichi Wakata and will communicate with another robot on Earth, according to developers. Wakata is expected to arrive at the space station in November.'"

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87 comments

no article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474073)

no article?

Re:no article? (5, Informative)

djupedal (584558) | about a year ago | (#44474103)

It's basically a toy - less than a foot high, I think - it responds to basic verbal pre-programmed commands. And since it only responds to Japanese and no one up there right now speaks enough to play with it, they will use someone on earth that has already worked with it to communicate over radio.

I'm going to call this more of a stunt than anything else, sorry.

Toy story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474123)

It's basically a toy - less than a foot high ...

I'm going to call this more of a stunt than anything else, sorry.

I am also feeling very sorry that Slashdot has decided to carry a Japanese Toy Story

Re:Toy story (1)

lxs (131946) | about a year ago | (#44475071)

Japanese Toy Story

Sounds awesome. Now why hasn't this happened yet?

Re:Toy story (1)

ls671 (1122017) | about a year ago | (#44475213)

Admit it, you are thinking of a category F toy aren't you? pervert! ;-)

Re:Toy story (1)

umghhh (965931) | about a year ago | (#44475997)

Never heard about category F toys but I think I know what you mean. I disagree however with your classification i.e. calling people perverts etc. I think use of such toys is just a matter of practicality. Women are difficult to handle and even if they come to the cellar they run away, some sooner rather than later. Sheep have nice fur but are filthy otherwise and one cannot switch them off (and there is a problem with getting them in and out of my cellar). Toys are a proper choice. Think about Herpes - the estimates are that up tp 90% of population have it. This is even filthier than sheep.....

If so then a clean toy would be appreciated. Of course it should be comfortable to use and well mannered also not too expensive (no comparing to wifey as nothing can be as expensive as wifey but that is another story) .

I for one would welcome our new f-toy overlords

Re:Toy story (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#44476681)

That should be the marketing line for RealDolls: Expensive, but still much cheaper than a real wife!

Re:Toy story (2)

lxs (131946) | about a year ago | (#44478813)

No marketing can disguise the inherent creepyness of RealDolls.

Re:Toy story (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about a year ago | (#44479517)

If you think the regular RealDolls are creepy, what do you think of their Boy Toy Dolls [boytoydolls.com] line?

Re:Toy story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44479631)

If you think the regular RealDolls are creepy, what do you think of their Boy Toy Dolls [boytoydolls.com] line?

If Gerry Anderson's Terrahawks [imgur.com] had featured a pornstar character, that's what the puppet would have looked like.

Re: Toy story (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44482919)

Meow meow

Lipstick on a pig (1)

Trax3001BBS (2368736) | about a year ago | (#44474415)

It's basically a toy - less than a foot high, I think - it responds to basic verbal pre-programmed commands.

"modelled on a beloved Japanese cartoon figure, Astro Boy, it would be quite wrong, indeed grossly offensive, to describe it as a toy."

-"You can clean up a pig, put a ribbon on it's tail, spray it with perfume, but it is still a pig."

Re:Lipstick on a pig (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474761)

Because it is a toy, I do not see any impressive 'humanoid' or 'android' features, dare say some shadow of an AI.

Re:no article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474575)

It's not a stunt, it's a beautiful gesture of goodwill.

Re:no article? (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year ago | (#44476507)

It's not a stunt at all. It's a beautiful way to improve your weapons-delivery systems without overtly creating a "missile". The H-II series of rockets lets Japan keep the capacity to deploy satellites (commercial or military) and keeping up with basic rocket tech lets them create a crash ICBM plan should the need arise.

Re:no article? (1)

niftydude (1745144) | about a year ago | (#44474935)

I'm going to call this more of a stunt than anything else, sorry.

A stunt? Not at all. This is obviously how skynet gets control of all the weapons satellites.

Ask yourself this - what do robots do when all the humans are sleeping?

Re:no article? (1)

Canazza (1428553) | about a year ago | (#44475351)

Dream of electric sheep?

Re:no article? (1)

niftydude (1745144) | about a year ago | (#44475681)

I thought that was androids...

Re:no article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44476521)

It's not a stunt, it's an experiment to study functioning of robots in space, to learn from mistakes and make better robots for space.

Since it's basically a computer, I am sure they can upgrade it to have more features and test it without sending another one i.e. If they have built the Upgrade feature into it.

From Wiki:
The robot's capabilities include voice and speech recognition, natural language processing, speech synthesis and telecommunications, as well as facial recognition and video recording. Kirobo is specially designed to navigate zero-gravity environments and will assist Commander Wakata in various experiments. Its main goal is to see how well robots and human can interact, hopefully leading the way to robots taking more active roles in assisting astronauts on missions.

Re:no article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474105)

I see an "A" and more than one "the."

Re:no article? (1)

hutsell (1228828) | about a year ago | (#44474119)

no article?

Here's an one about Kirobo, from the Guardian [theguardian.com] .

Re:no article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474429)

no article?

Here's an one about Kirobo, from the Guardian [theguardian.com] .

Someone didn't follow the link in the summery...

Re:no article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474587)

there was no link in the summery until after he pointed it out.

Re:no article? (1)

hutsell (1228828) | about a year ago | (#44474679)

no article?

Here's an one about Kirobo, from the Guardian [theguardian.com] .

Someone didn't follow the link in the summery...

The Guardian link in my previous comment was posted a few minutes before there were any links in the summary. RedHackTea also posted a link before the summary was corrected, choosing wisely to pick an alternative resource. Much to my surprise (not), slashdotitors are able to update a summary after it's been made public — in turn, that correction changed the original meaning to both of our comments; in my case, negatively.

If the editors had linked to a third resource, such as The Indedendent (which I intentionally avoided due to the adverts), it would have turned out differently for my comment.

Kirobo = Kibo + Robot (1)

runeghost (2509522) | about a year ago | (#44474085)

The Japanese just launched a robot Kibo into orbit. Words fail.

Re: Kirobo = Kibo + Robot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474229)

When pronounced with a purposely heavy accent it kind of sounds like "kill robot" (probably just one of the verbal commands it can execute, er, follow).

I hope it knows how to handle zero gravity. A floating Kirobo with panicking gyros sounds like a recipe for Space Madness!

Re: Kirobo = Kibo + Robot (1)

ls671 (1122017) | about a year ago | (#44475221)

On TV, you could see him taking zero gravity tests in a special airplane, just like the human astronaut do.

Re: Kirobo = Kibo + Robot (1)

gagol (583737) | about a year ago | (#44479875)

Did he threw up the first couple times?

Re:Kirobo = Kibo + Robot (2)

Seumas (6865) | about a year ago | (#44474405)

I suspect less than one percent of people online are old enough to even know who Kibo is. :)

I'm sorry Dave-san, I cannot do that (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474101)

Dave-san, I cannot let you jeopardize this mission.

Re:I'm sorry Dave-san, I cannot do that (2)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about a year ago | (#44474249)

Please open the pod bay doors Kibo.

Re:I'm sorry Dave-san, I cannot do that (1)

tomofumi (831434) | about a year ago | (#44475235)

Let's hope its code name is not HAL9000 :P

Re:I'm sorry Dave-san, I cannot do that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44475679)

Kirobo= Killer+Robot!!!!

been there, done that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474151)

beat them, ha! http://robonaut.jsc.nasa.gov/default.asp

And good riddance! (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#44474177)

What's wrong with the other non-Japanese astronauts being "companions" for their Japanese astronauts? Since when are machines acceptable substitutes for humans in social situations?

and WTF is wrong with people? We already have plenty of robots in space. No need for any of them to talk or be humanoid. Those things just make them direct competitors for humans WHO PRESENTLY DO EVERYTHING BETTER.

Re:And good riddance! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474257)

It gets kids interested in space

Re: And good riddance! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474267)

Since when are machines acceptable substitutes for humans in social situations?

Just ask my ex-wife that question and she'll show you her vibrator collection.

Re: And good riddance! (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#44475167)

This explains so much about politics.

Re:And good riddance! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474323)

Robots don't have to go through depressurization. They don't get the bends, they don't need to breathe, eat or drink they don't create CO2 that needs to be scrubbed, or waste to be recycled. In an emergency the robot can be teleoperated by experts on the ground. You know, all the things that would be extremely valuable to have along even on manned missions.

Re:And good riddance! (1)

foniksonik (573572) | about a year ago | (#44475853)

They also use up a lot of energy. There are pros and cons of course. They use more energy than humans to do less useful work BUT they can get tht energy from solar collectors or nuclear more directly than humans (without the massive delay of turning it into sugars first).

Re:And good riddance! (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a year ago | (#44475033)

In Japan, the mainstream religions are being challenged by newcomer Robotology, the worship of impractical robotic figures.

Re:And good riddance! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44475201)

In Japan, the mainstream religions are being challenged by newcomer Robotology, the worship of impractical robotic figures.

Considering that the mainstream religion in the west is worship of an ancient torture/execution device I don't see impractical robotic figures as less worthy of my worship.

Re:And good riddance! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44478053)

Considering that the mainstream religion in the west is worship of an ancient torture/execution device

The voting booth? :o

Re:And good riddance! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44476291)

In Japan, the mainstream religions are being challenged by newcomer Robotology, the worship of impractical robotic figures.

But in Capitalist Japan, mainstream religions challenge YOU!

Re:And good riddance! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44475139)

It's all part of the circus to make you forget about the NSA reading your mail.

Re:And good riddance! (1)

KeensMustard (655606) | about a year ago | (#44475327)

Yes - well for definitions of EVERYTHING which includes virtually nothing at all. For the common definition of everything (that is, every use case we can think of) machines are better:

1. Machines are better at loitering in orbit and performing occasional or frequent routine tasks, as evidenced by the number of satellites that do that

2. Machines are better at going to other planets or satellites, observing and sampling them, as evidenced by the fact that they regularly do that, and humans don't.

3. Machines are better at going great distances to see what's there. As evidence by the fact that at this point in time, a machine is leaving the solar system, and humans are dicking around in LEO.

The fact of the matter is, machines are our genius. Machines are what set us apart. An ape or raven might grasp a rock and use it to break open a shell. We can make microprocessors and draglines, air conditioners, blast furnaces, LASERS, a dizzying, seemingly never ending array of machines to do what our physical bodies, dextrous though they be, cannot. A leopard can run faster than the swiftest human - but a machine that we build can carry a baby to speeds undreamt of by the leopard. A gorilla is stronger than the strongest man - but a simple machine allows a child to lift a weight that would defeat the gorilla. There is NO need for us to be ashamed of the fact that machines act on our behalf in space or on other planetary bodies. If we ever go to another planet, we will get there thanks to the machines that busily protect us, enclosing, warming and feeding us. And by the time we do that, the machines we build will be capable of yet greater feats, unburdened by the need to nurture us.

This is not something we should be afraid of. Sure, the future didn't turn out the way that Star Trek imagined it in the 60's. But so what? Who's to say that this is not better?

I knew we did it wrong (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year ago | (#44474181)

We voted for hope and change, and we got "Kirobo"

Re:I knew we did it wrong (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#44474237)

I don't know all that much about Japanese politics, but given that they currently have twelve or so parties represented in the legislature and twice that vying to get in, the people whose votes had a chance of affecting funding for JAXA projects have a nearly unlimited supply of change.

Re:I knew we did it wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474345)

No. You got the Obama bot. Only this time, he can see his teleprompters from space!

Meme overload (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474201)

I for one welcome our...oh, fuck you! Too easy!

I wonder (1)

msobkow (48369) | about a year ago | (#44474269)

Is Japanese easier to process for voice recognition than English?

Re:I wonder (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474509)

Is Japanese easier to process for voice recognition than English?

That's actually a very good question. I'm not all that familiar with voice recognition engines but at least the more sophisticated ones should take language structure into account as well. If the engine assigns certainty percentages to words in a sentence the words surrounding a relatively uncertain word could be used to deduct what the uncertain word is so that it becomes a structurally correct sentence.

Re:I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474579)

Naturally spoken, probably not, since conversation in Japanese depends a lot on contextual info. No idea on whether the words themselves are any easier to recognize, though.

Re:I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474589)

It would surprise me. They have lots (and I mean LOTS) of homonyms. It's the reason for their reliance on kanji. And since computers have a hard enough time determining what the reading to a kanji is (some have up to twelve different readings, depending on context) it seems like it would be extremely hard for a computer to tell just which command was meant by a spoken word. But, I am not a machine learning expert, and I have no doubt that it is possible with enough effort.

Grammatically, yes, practically, no. (4, Informative)

tlambert (566799) | about a year ago | (#44474611)

Is Japanese easier to process for voice recognition than English?

Grammatically, yes, practically, no.

Japanese is more regular than English, and it is SOV order instead of SVO order. Subject -> Object -> Verb means you have your subject object, and the parameter object, before you're told to call the Subject object's member function.

Idiomatically, however, there's a huge amount of context use to imply subject and object, so if you were to try and parse spken Japanese, you might have a problem if you weren't there for the start of the conversation. I rather expect that it's limited to completely context free full sentences and/or simple commands, rather than understanding idiomatic usage.

Someone else mentioned homonyms; you can get a homonym of "you are a tall man" that could also mean "you have just crossed a bridge" and "you are a martian" (one of my favorite Japanese puns, actually, because of the story a friend tells which goes with it), but again, it requires idiomatic usage to get to that point, so practically, you can eliminate ambiguity intentionally, the same way that you can avoid puns in English, by further constraining how you are allowed to talk to the thing.

Or you could just flag ambiguous idiomatic usage, and have it ask for clarification, which is what most robot engineers would do.

Re:Grammatically, yes, practically, no. (1)

ortholattice (175065) | about a year ago | (#44475649)

Japanese is more regular than English, and it is SOV order instead of SVO order.

Interesting - it sounds like Japanese is an RPN version of English's infix notation (where the verb is a binary "operation" acting on noun arguments).

I wonder how that affects thought processes - with RPN, you wouldn't need the (often erroneous or omitted) parenthetical commas that makes long English sentences so confusing.

Re:Grammatically, yes, practically, no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44475887)

Though I'm Japanese, and I love da-ja-re, I can't guess what your favorite puns in Japanese.
tall -> takai?, bridge -> hashi?, martian -> kaseijin? ... an homonym includes all of these meanings?
Please let me know!

Re:Grammatically, yes, practically, no. (1)

Zatchmort (1091857) | about a year ago | (#44476169)

Seconding AC - I can't figure out how "kaseijin" (Martian) fits in at all... spill! :P

Re:Grammatically, yes, practically, no. (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44476481)

It really depends what you want the robot to do. Japanese is very precise and concise when it comes to conveying basic factual information or requests. Sharp has said that all their future products will incorporate voice control, and for what they expect to receive as input ("set temperature to 23C", "clean the kitchen") it works well. I tried it out with one of their robot vacuum cleaners and even with my foreign accent and arthritis induced mumbling it had no trouble understanding me in a busy shop.

Step 1 of the evil plan is complete (1)

mrsam (12205) | about a year ago | (#44474271)

Here comes step 2:

We'll beam him cheesy movies,
The worst we can find.
It'll have to receive and record them all,
And we'll monitor his hard drive.

And because our robot can't control
Where the movies begin or end.
It'll try to have enough free disk space
With the help of its human friends.

They couldn't get Bender (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474307)

They couldn't get Bender to go. The amount of beer and oil Bender demanded would have added too much weight for the launch. To save face, when no one else was watching, the Japanese quickly shoved Kirobo, kicking and screaming into the cargo bay and welded the door shut.

Pretty impressive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474399)

I wonder whats next

Glad I don't live in Tokyo (2)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about a year ago | (#44474417)

We all know how this will end. We've all seen the Japanese movies. Tokyo is going to end up in ashes and rubble. Then Godzilla will wake up, and things will get messy.

oh my. (3, Funny)

Gravis Zero (934156) | about a year ago | (#44474445)

Japan Launches Talking Humanoid Robot Into Space

wow, they must really hate when robots talk.

A different side of HAL (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about a year ago | (#44474455)

"I won't, I won't open the pod bay doors; nanny nanny poo poo! Davie Gravy, I betcha can't get in without a helmet, betcha betcha, chickeeeen!"

Waste of weight (1, Insightful)

sir-gold (949031) | about a year ago | (#44474529)

It costs $5000-$10,000 per pound to ship things into space, and they sent a talking companion robot that doesn't even speak the same language as any of the astronauts?

Re:Waste of weight (2)

tftp (111690) | about a year ago | (#44474663)

They probably had an allocation of weight. They could ship anything they wanted in that allocation, from a toy to dried whale meat.

Re:Waste of weight (1)

dragon-file (2241656) | about a year ago | (#44477615)

The dried whale meat would still be less of a waste of stowage.

Re:Waste of weight (1)

msobkow (48369) | about a year ago | (#44476087)

I presume you had an issue with the guitar being shipped up that was used for the recent music videos, too.

Every astronaut has an allocation of personal weight allowed. How they use that weight is up to them and their government.

Remember these people are often up there for months at a time. They have a right to some entertainment and amusement, whatever form that may take and however "useless" that might be to the research done by the missions.

Re:Waste of weight (1)

sir-gold (949031) | about a year ago | (#44478853)

It wasn't the fact that they sent something that is purely for entertainment, the problem is that the entertainment chosen isn't usable by anyone who is currently up there. The doll is Japanese-only, and none of them speak Japanese.

I just thought they would have been better off with a few pounds of chocolate or something, instead of a toy that none of them can use.

Japanese obsession (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44474569)

What is with the Japanese and their obsession with robots .. especially humanoid ones? We are not at the stage in AI development where a humanoid robot is of some utility.

Useless (3, Interesting)

Taantric (2587965) | about a year ago | (#44474583)

I have never understood Japanese robot innovations or the hype around them. What they are doing so superficial and useless. They intently focus on the mechanics of robotic movement and facial design while either ignoring or paying superficial lip service to the Artificial Intelligence aspect. The moment the robot interacts with a human the illusion will be broken. Most of these Japanese robots have essentially the same AI as an IRC bot. Restricted list of recognized commands and related actions. Obsessively focusing on the form and ignoring the soul of the machine.

These are useless toys outside of manufacturing and very specialized industries. And frankly the problem of robot mechanics is an easy one to solve. Just copy Nature.

Re:Useless (2)

codepigeon (1202896) | about a year ago | (#44474645)

Look at it this way: one guy invented peanut butter...while some other guy was working on chocolate.....fast forward to the future and we have delicious peanut butter cups.

I am glad they are perfecting this aspect. When the AI is smart enough (and compact enough), it will have a suitable container to be put into.

On that day we will welcome or new robotic overlords (or sexy fembots).

Re:Useless (0)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#44475181)

I have never understood Japanese robot innovations or the hype around them. What they are doing so superficial and useless. They intently focus on the mechanics of robotic movement and facial design while either ignoring or paying superficial lip service to the Artificial Intelligence aspect.

The Japanese are wiser than you. They know that cuteness and likability are largely visual in nature. Perhaps if the city your grandparents lived in were obliterated with an atom bomb for helping with a Holocaust then you would be more sensitive to what happens when sentient beings can be easily marginalized.

Now, since you may have gained a bit more understanding... Would you rather do likability testing on self aware robots? Or, would you rather the "uncanny valley" not be an easy excuse for genocide? Admit to how primitive of a race you are. Then you will understand more about the actions of those around you, especially the wise.

Re:Useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44475397)

This is either written by a bot or a schizophrenic.

Re:Useless (1)

SplatMan_DK (1035528) | about a year ago | (#44476155)

Yes it is. No it isn't.

/J

Re:Useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44478091)

The Japanese are wiser than you.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Re:Useless (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about a year ago | (#44475889)

The hardware and software (AI) challenges involved in robot locomotion are worthy targets in and of themselves. Take a look at Boston Dynamics' work for DARPA and tell me that it's "superficial and useless".

Re:Useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44476189)

What they are doing so superficial and useless.

Most of what all of humanity does every damn day is superficial and useless. What do you care which superficial and useless thing they're doing today?

And frankly the problem of robot mechanics is an easy one to solve. Just copy Nature.

Trying to just copy nature is why it took us thousands of years to learn to fly -- we were trying to copy the birds. It's when we stopped copying birds and started figuring out how fixed-wing craft could work that things really took off (puns always intended).

one caveat (1)

Sibelius (123685) | about a year ago | (#44474607)

* Soul required for activation not included.

Why do the biting dolls from Barbarella (1)

kawabago (551139) | about a year ago | (#44474629)

come to mind so easily here. Why is everything old, still old. Take it and make it new, please someone! Help us climb from our mediocrity.

Mr. Clippy ... is that you? (1)

SplatMan_DK (1035528) | about a year ago | (#44475421)

Wow ... Mr. Clippy ... is that you? Congratulations on your serious career-move!

Making digital mistakes in computer-land apparently is no guarantee for not repeating them in the physical world ...

- Jesper

Disapointed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44475747)

Japan.... 1000 animes with giant robots... and you send a kids toy to space? Where are my Jaegers?

Floyd! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44476053)

I hope they're careful and turn it off before they go to sleep!

take planetfall. put planetfall in drive. play planetfall.

someone should experiement with this (1)

peter303 (12292) | about a year ago | (#44477473)

I persoanlly this it is not important to have humanoid machines or computer software. But who knows for sure. We wont be certain until someone tries the alternatives.
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