Talking Japanese robot headed to the moon, set to fly circles around Siri


kirobo-spacePhoto by ITmedia

The famous humanoid robot Kirobo will fly to the moon on August 4th, setting off from the International Space Station, acting as a partner for Japanese astronaut, Koichi Wakata. At a recent press conference in Tokyo, Kirobo himself commented, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for robots.”

The project will attempt to bring the very first human to humanoid conversation into space. The Kirobo Robot Project is operated by Jaxa in collaboration with Rcast (Research Center for Advanced Science Techonology), Robo Garage, Toyota, and Dentsu. Robo Garage is the company owned by Tomotaka Takahashi, the brains behind a wide assortment of robots, including Kirobo. Toyota techonology is present in the robot’s voice recognition and natural language processing.

Kirobo, which is 34 cm tall and weighs just a kilogram, and will be launched into space on August 4th on the H-II Transfer Vehicle ‘Kounotori’. The conversation between Kirobo and the astronaut will be streamed upon their arrival in space, and will be recorded throughout the trip. Takahashi of Robo Garage explains:

People may say that virtual characters on screen is enough, but it is hard to feel any emotion towards a screen. We’re going back to real, physical objects. There are voice recognition systems like Siri on iOS, but it is not being used as much as expected. People may feel a little hesitant to speak to a square box.

Takahashi dreams of a futuristic society where people and robots co-exist. That would certainly be a giant step for us all.