Japan Launching Talking Robot Into Space, Will Chat With Astronauts

The Japanese love their robots, so much in fact that they are preparing to launch a talking robot into space.

Kirobo is a humanoid “robot astronaut” that is capable of conversing with humans, and it is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station on August 4.

When Kirobo lands on the ISS, it will take part in robot-to-human conversations as part of the Kibo Robot Project.

Speaking to The Associated Press, Kirobo project manager Yorichika Nishijima revealed:

“Russia was the first to go to 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.”

In case you are curious about the name, it comes from a combination of “Kibo,” the Japanese word for hope, and the word “robot.”

Kirobo was chosen as the robot’s name after more than 2,452 entries were submitted from interested fans.

The robot’s name is fitting as the Japanese module of the space station is known as the Kibo laboratory.

Kirobo utilizes voice-recognition technology, natural language processing, facial recognition, a camera, emotion recognition, and the ability to speak Japanese.

The robot astronaut is not large at just 13.4 inches, but smaller sizes aboard a cramped International Space Station is not a bad thing.

Kirobo went through zero gravity tests and passed all safety requirements for launch.

Once in space Kirobo will start talking in August or September 2013. The first conversation will occur with veteran Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.

Kirobo will stay in space until December 2014.

It’s really hard not to picture Kirobo as a really expensive version of Wilson the volleyball. At the same time, the robot could be used as an alternative companion for long space travels in the future.

Do you think Kirobo the space robot can provide beneficial services to astronauts?