Talking humanoid robot launches on Japan rocket

August 4, 2013
In this photo taken from video Japan's H-2B rocket lifts off from a launch pad at the Tanegashima Space Center in Tanegashima, southern Japan, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2013. Japan successfully launched the un-manned cargo transporter Sunday carrying close to five and a half tons of supplies and equipment, along with a small robot which will serve as a companion to Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata who is onboard the International Space Station. (AP Photo/JAXA via AP video)

The first talking humanoid robot "astronaut" has taken off in a rocket.

Kirobo—derived from the Japanese words for "hope" and "robot"—was among five tons of supplies and machinery on a rocket launched Sunday for the International Space Station from Tanegashima, southwestern Japan, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, said.

The childlike robot was designed to be a companion for astronaut Koichi Wakata, and will communicate with another robot on Earth, according to developers. Wakata is expected to arrive at the space station in November.

Robot designer Tomotaka Takahashi, of the University of Tokyo, advertiser Dentsu and automaker Toyota Motor Corp. worked on the robot.

The challenge was making sure it could move and talk where there was no gravity.

Ahead of the launch, the 34-centimeter (13-inch) tall Kirobo told reporters, "one small step for me, a giant leap for robots."

Japan boasts the most sophisticated robotics in the world, but because of its "manga" culture, it tends to favor cute robots with human-like characteristics with , a use of technology that has at times drawn criticism for being not productive.

In this June 26, 2013, humanoid communication robot Kirobo is shown during a press unveiling in Tokyo. The first talking humanoid robot "astronaut" has taken off in a rocket. Kirobo - derived from the Japanese words for "hope" and "robot" - was among five tons of supplies and machinery on a rocket launched Sunday, Aug. 4, 2013, for the International Space Station from Tanegashima, southwestern Japan, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, said. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File)

But Takahashi, the designer, said sending a robot into space could help write a new chapter in the history of communication.

"I wish for this robot to function as a mediator between person and machine, or person and Internet and sometimes even between people," he said.

Japan's Tokyo University robot creator Tomotaka Takahashi demonstrates robot Kirobo in Tokyo on June 26, 2013. The small talking robot accompanied the cargo-carrying rocket launched from Japan Sunday to the International Space Station.

JAXA, Japan's equivalent of NASA, said the was successful, and the separation of a cargo vehicle, carrying the robot to the space station, was confirmed about 15 minutes after liftoff.

Explore further: Japan conversation robot ready for outer space (Update)

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2.1 / 5 (7) Aug 04, 2013
Toys in Space.
1 / 5 (2) Aug 04, 2013
with the pictures and title i thought they had sent up just the robot, lucky they haven't otherwise we'd probably find that rocket stuck in the moon
1 / 5 (1) Aug 05, 2013
Time for NASA it get to work on a Buzz Lightyear version.
1 / 5 (4) Aug 05, 2013
Toys in Space.

And the useful point of this exercise is .......
1 / 5 (1) Aug 06, 2013
And the useful point of this exercise is

140 shopping days till Christmas?

The wiki page says:

Its main goal is to see how well robots and human can interact, hopefully leading the way to robots taking more active roles in assisting astronauts on missions

I expect that getting it to move around in microgravity is a key point of interest as well.

Frankly I don't see the point of this type of robot on the ISS. If it was designed to crawl or float around the outside of the station to inspect for damage or tote tools and parts along side of an astronaut, then I could see the justification. From the description of Kirobo's features, this could all be done with an Ipad or Kindle.

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