World’s first talking robot to go into space

Japan Robonaut space.jpg

 
Tokyo: A talking robot that will accompany a Japanese astronaut in spa­ce this summer says the cosmic tour will be one gi­ant leap for androids everywhere. In a scene straight out of Star Wars, the pint-sized Kirobo fielded questions from curious journalists who asked what it was going to do in space.
 
“This may look a small st­ep, but it will be a big stride as a robot,” the black-and-white humanoid robot outfitted with bright red boots told a press briefing in Tokyo. Its creators said th­ey were sending the robot into space to act as a chatting partner for astronaut Koichi Wakata, who is set to arrive at the Inter­na­ti­onal Space Station (ISS) later this year.
 
Kirobo is to arrive in August in what its handlers say is the first visit for a robot at the space station. Wakata will also be the first Japanese astronaut to command the ISS. “KIROBO will remember Mr Waka­ta's face so it can recognise him when they reunite up in space,” said creator Tomotaka Takahashi. “He will be the first robot to visit the space station.”
 
Standing at just 34 centimetres (13.4 inches) tall and weighing about one ki­logram (2.2 pounds), the little android is progra­m­med to communicate in Ja­pa­ne­se and keep re­cords of its co­­nversations with Wa­ka­ta.
 
The robot, which has a wide range of physical mo­tion, will also play a role in some missions, relaying messages from the control room to the astronaut, Ta­kahashi said. “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,” said Yorichika Nis­hijima, the Kirobo project manager.
 
Back on earth, twin robot MIRATA will be on the lookout for any problems encountered by its electronic counterpart. Takahashi, who said he was inspired by legendary animation character Astro Boy, said he now wants to create a miniaturised robot that owners could carry in their pocket like a smartphone. 

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