Kirobo – Japan’s First Robotic Astronaut

This robot, at only 34 centimeters tall, is the newest member of the ISS team.

Robots are popping up increasingly in our lives, and now, this even is the case for the ISS, or the International Space Station!

On August 10th, 2013, Japan sent the first robotic astronaut to the International Space Station. The robot, known as Kirobo, was sent along JAXA’s H-II Transfer Vehicle Kounotori 4 to accompany the Japanese astronaut, Koichi Wakata. Kirobo’s name is from the Japanese word for hope “kibō”, and robot. Kirobo is only 34 centimeters tall and weighs approximately 1 kilogram. His design reflects that of Japan’s iconic superhero, Astro Boy.

Kirobo is able to speak fluent Japanese, and has voice and speech recognition, natural language processing, speech synthesis and telecommunications, as well as facial recognition and video recording. It is also able to help with the mundane chores at the ISS, effectively relieving the astronauts of some stress.

Kirobo was designed by the University of Tokyo and Robo Garage. Specifically, they worked on the robot hardware and motion generation. Japanese cap company, Toyota, designed Kirobo’s voice recognition function, and Japanese public relations company, Dentsu, created the conversation content and managed the project.

William I. Newman, Earth and Space Science Professor at the University of California Los Angeles provided his insight on this project, saying that “this development is a significant milestone in the exploration of space. The use of robotics [in space] is essential.”

Kirobo currently only speaks Japanese, but will be great company for the Japanese astronauts at the ISS!

For an interview with Toyota, click the following link