Japan sends talking humanoid robot to the ISS

TOKYO. August 5. KAZINFORM Japan has launched the world's first talking humanoid robot "astronaut" toward the International Space Station. Kirobo - derived from the Japanese words for "hope" and "robot" - was among five tons of supplies and machinery on a rocket launched Sunday from Tanegashima, Kagoshima Prefecture, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said.

The "childlike" robot was designed to be a companion for astronaut Koichi Wakata and will communicate with another robot on Earth, according to its 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 can move and talk in zero gravity.

Ahead of the launch, the 34-cm-tall Kirobo told reporters, "one small step for me, a giant leap for robots."

Japan boasts some of the most sophisticated robotics in the world, but because of its manga culture and penchant for all things cute, many robots have humanlike characteristics to offer emotional appeal, drawing criticism for being an unproductive use of high technology.

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

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

JAXA said the rocket launch was successful, and the separation of the cargo vehicle, carrying the robot to the ISS, was confirmed about 15 minutes after liftoff.

Source: JapanTimes

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