Cute Robots Will Be Launched Into Space

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This summer, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans to launch two amazingly cute yet advanced, white-helmeted robots into space. Then an astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) will attempt to converse with one of them.

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Robot astronaut Kirobo and backup robot Mirata were created as part of the Kibo Robot Project, a collaboration among Robo Garage, Toyota, the University of Tokyo and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA. They aim to send the robots with the JAXA mission to the ISS on Aug. 4, Engadget’s Steve Dent reported.

These diminutive bots might look like playful anime characters, but their sophisticated capabilities include voice recognition, facial recognition, and the ability to communicate in Japanese. They can also move around freely.

After they arrive, one of the little robots is expected to talk with Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, according to the project’s video. Do yourself a favor and watch that video. It’s fantastic. Kirobo can actually say “I am a robotic astronaut” in Japanese and appears to respond when the roboticists talk to him.

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Besides being a great premise for an animated family movie, the Kibo Robot Project has noble goals. One is to truly put human-robot interactions to the test. Another is to inspire humans back on Earth by showing how well a robot can converse in difficult circumstances. After all, some people out there remain unconvinced about the effectiveness of therapeutic robots.

The two space-bound robots are shouldering big responsibilities. Near the end of the descriptive video, one of the project team members leans over Kirobo and says, “I’m counting on you!” Yeah little dude, we’re all counting on you. Try not to lose your lunch up there.

Photos: Kirobo goes on a parabolic test flight and is expected to be looking out on Earth from space this summer. Credit: Kibo Robot Project.

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