Talking robot blasts into space for International Space Station

Robot known as Kirobo is designed to be a companion for astronaut Koichi Wakata

Humanoid communication robot Kirobo shakes hands with Tomotaka Takahashi, chief executive  of Robo Garage  and project associate professor during its unveiling in Tokyo in June. Photograph: Reuters

Humanoid communication robot Kirobo shakes hands with Tomotaka Takahashi, chief executive of Robo Garage and project associate professor during its unveiling in Tokyo in June. Photograph: Reuters

Sun, Aug 4, 2013, 13:10

Kirobo, a knee-high talking robot with red boots and a black and white body, has blasted off from Japan for the International Space Station to test how machines can help astronauts.

The Japanese-speaking robot, equipped with voice- and facial-recognition technology, was packed into an unmanned cargo vessel along with tonnes of supplies and equipment for the crew of the orbital research base.

The cargo vessel, launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan today, will arrive at the outpost on Friday, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s website.

Video: Japanese robot astronaut floats in zero gravity

At a recent demonstration, Kirobo said it “hoped to create a future where humans and robots live together and get along”.

As it carries on the first robot-human chats in space, Kirobo’s main conversation partner will be Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who is expected to take off for the space station with six other crew members in November.

Mr Wakata is due to take command of the complex, a €110 billion project by 15 nations, next March. Kirobo - jointly developed by the University of Tokyo, Toyota Motor Corp and Dentsu - will stay in space until late 2014.

Standing 34cm tall and weighing about 1 kg , Kirobo is designed to navigate in zero gravity and gets its name from “kibo”, the Japanese word for “hope”, and “robot”.

Reuters