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Space Japan

Japan Launches Talking Humanoid Robot Into Space 87

Posted by samzenpus
from the nobody-can-hear-your-robot dept.
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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Japan Launches Talking Humanoid Robot Into Space

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  • The Japanese just launched a robot Kibo into orbit. Words fail.
    • by Seumas (6865)

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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 04, 2013 @11:10PM (#44474101)

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

  • 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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It gets kids interested in space

    • by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

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

      • by Anonymous Coward

        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.

    • 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. Machin

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

    • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward

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

  • Is Japanese easier to process for voice recognition than English?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • by tlambert (566799) on Monday August 05, 2013 @01:47AM (#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.

      • 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.

      • Seconding AC - I can't figure out how "kaseijin" (Martian) fits in at all... spill! :P
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        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.

  • 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.

  • 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. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Gravis Zero (934156) on Monday August 05, 2013 @12:42AM (#44474445)

    Japan Launches Talking Humanoid Robot Into Space

    wow, they must really hate when robots talk.

  • "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 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sir-gold (949031)

    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?

    • by tftp (111690)

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

    • by msobkow (48369)

      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.

      • by sir-gold (949031)

        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.

  • Useless (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Taantric (2587965) on Monday August 05, 2013 @01:26AM (#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.

    • 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).
    • 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 genocid

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      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".

  • * Soul required for activation not included.

  • 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.
  • 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

  • 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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