Robot Astronaut Kirobo Calls Home From Space1 min read

The pint-sized android astronaut, which combines cuteness and cutting-edge technology, is the first robot to have spoken from space according to researchers behind Kirobo.

No bigger than a Chihuahua, the 34cm tall automaton weighing just 1kg, broadcast a message from the International Space Station (ISS), greeting citizens of Earth and paying a cheeky tribute to Neil Armstrong.

“On August 21, 2013, a robot took one small step toward a brighter future for all,” Kirobo said in a video as it drifted weightlessly onboard the space station.

The images, filmed two weeks ago but only just released, made their global debut as part of Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Olympics during a presentation ahead of a top-level meeting in Buenos Aires which will decide the host city.

“Good morning to everyone on Earth. This is Kirobo. I am the world’s first talking robot astronaut. Nice to meet you,” it said in Japanese.

Packaged into an insulated box, Kirobo – a name derived from the words Kibo, or ‘hope’ in Japanese, and Robot – blasted off aboard a cargo-carrying rocket on August 4.

It arrived at the ISS six days later and will stay in space for about a year and a half, according to Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Kirobo is programmed to communicate in Japanese and keep records of its conversations with Koichi Wakata, the first Japanese astronaut to command the ISS.

Other astronauts will not be able to interact with the visiting robot unless they speak Kirobo’s native tongue.

Kirobo was developed by Tokyo University, Toyota Motor Corporation, advertising agency Dentsu and Robo Garage.

The robot is part of a study aimed at seeing how a non-human companion can provide emotional support for people isolated over long periods.

Kirobo is scheduled to return to earth in December, 2014.


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Sebastien Clarke
Sebastien Clarke

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