It barely weighs 2 pounds and looks like an adorable toy. Its name is Kirobo and it is a humanoid robot. But this is not just a robot like the others, as Japan space exploration researchers have been putting all their hopes in Kirobo as the first robot space talker in history.
According to a recent Toyota announcement, on August 4, Kirobo will be sent to the International Space Station. This will be the first talking robot ever launched in space. Kirobo is scheduled to speak for the first time in September, but apparently it won’t have much to do on the space station until the end of the year, because it can only communicate in Japanese.
Kirobo’s first historic conversation with an earthling will only occur in November or December when Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata will arrive at the station. The man-robot pair are expected to return to Earth in December 2014.
Standing at 13.4 inches tall, the robot will travel aboard the unmanned Kounotori 4 cargo spacecraft, which is to be launched from the Tanegashima Space Center a top an H-IIB rocket.
Kirobo was designed as a collaborative effort between Tokyo University’s Research Center for Advanced Science, Dentsu, the Japan Space Agency and iconic auto-maker Toyota.
The cute and tiny astronaut robot is designed to recognize human facial expressions, body language and emotions and is intended as more of an educational tool and AI companion. It was based on the Robi prototype, with a few added features and modifications for operating at zero gravity. Toyota provided the software for speech recognition, while the Tokyo University researchers have programmed the entire speech content.
The scientists and project engineers that have created Kirobo have also developed a second communication robot, Mirata, who will remain on Earth for now. Almost identical in function, Mirata will be able to help scientists communicate with the space robot and troubleshoot any problems that may arise.
[Image via Mashable]