Robot's Goodbye to Astronaut Will Warm Your Heart (or Terrify You)

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 16 2014 12:22 PM

Robot's Goodbye to Astronaut Will Warm Your Heart (or Terrify You)

Depending on your view of the world, you'll either find the video above extraordinarly moving or absolutely terrifying. Six months ago, astronaut Koichi Wakata left Earth for a stint on the International Space Station, where he was joined by small and, yes, adorable robot named Kirobo.

Developed by a team that included Dentsu, Robo Garage, the University of Tokyo's Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, and Toyota, Kirobo was designed specifically for the Wakata-commanded ISS stint, and his role in the mission made him the first humanoid robot in space.


In addition to more standard robotic capabilities, the tiny robot was also outfitted with voice, speech, and facial recognition, which allowed him to to develop—or at least mimic—a real relationship with Wakata. Prior to the mission, the hope was that their time together would shed more light on what is possible insofar as human/robot interactions, as well as the potential practical applications of robots in space. Based on the evidence above, that mission appears to have been at least a partial success.

"I'll never forget the time I've spent with you in space, Kirobo-Kun," says Wakata during his tearful goodbye. "I'll also store it in my memory," responds Kirobo, floating in the zero gravity environment while past clips of shared moments between the two of them are replayed in the video.

It's surprisingly emotional stuff, and were I not terrified of Kirobo's inevitable transition to self-awareness and the ensuing attempt to turn our defense systems against us, I think I'd be genuinely moved by the relationship. Their goodbye, if viewed in a James Cameron-less vacuum, is an undeniable tear-jerker.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

A.J. McCarthy is a Slate Video blogger.



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.