Japan's Kirobo, World's First Talking Robot Astronaut, To Launch In August [VIDEO]
A talking robot will soon launch into space to meet up with a human astronaut, with the two performing the first conversation between a human and talking robot in space. The robot is named Kirobo, which is a compound of the Japanese word for "hope" and robot.
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Kirobo speaks Japanese and is capable of recognizing and processing human voice. The talking robot contains a facial recognition camera and is able to remember faces.
"This may look a small step, but it will be a big stride as a robot," Kirobo said Wednesday at a press briefing in Tokyo.
Yorichika Nishijima, the project manager of Kirobo, said that the talking robot is an international achievement for Japan.
"Russia was the first to go outer space, the U.S. was the first to go to the moon, we want Japan to be the first to send a robot-astronaut to space that can communicate with humans," Nishijima said.
The purpose of the talking robot is to act as a companion for Koichi Wakata, an astronaut heading to the International Space Station, arriving later this year. Kirobo will arrive at the ISS in August, at which point he will greet Wakata.
"KIROBO will remember Mr, Wakata's face so it can recognize him when they reunite up in space," said creator Tomotaka Takahashi. "He will be the first robot to visit the space station."
In addition to chatting with Wakata, the 13.4 inch, 2.2 pound talking robot will help relay messages from the control room to Wakata.
"When people think of robots in outer space, they tend to seek ones that do things physically," said Takahashi. "But I think there is something that could come from focusing on humanoid robots that focus on communication."
Kirobo, developed as a joint project between Toyota, the University of Tokyo and the company Robo Garage, is more than just a space novelty, its creators say. They hope that the robot could eventually be used to converse with lonely or isolated people here on Earth.
"Japanese people are more comfortable with the idea of living and communicating with robots, because that's a popular scene in [Japanese comics]," said Takahashi at the press conference. "In about 15 years, we want to see a society where everyone is living with a personal robot."
During the Wednesday's press briefing in Tokyo, Fuminori Kataoka, one of the Kirobo project managers, asked Kirobo what its dream was.
"I want to create a future where humans and robots can live together and get along," said Kirobo.
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