Talking humanoid robot hitches a ride to space

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The first humanoid robot astronaut or “robobot” has been launched into space on Sunday.

The robot’s name, “Kirobo,” an amalgamation of the words “hope” and “robot” in Japanese, was among tons of supplies launched into space for the International Space Station (ISS) from Tanegashima, southwestern Japan, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said.

This summer JAXA launched not one but two such incredibly advanced yet simple-looking robots.

Kirobo has an earth-bound twin, Mirata who will monitor Kirobo’s progress as he begins operation on the ISS ahead of astronaut Koichi Wakata’s mission to the ISS this November.

The diminutive robots, which stand at 13 inches, and weigh one kilogram, look like Japanese anime characters but their capabilities include voice recognition, facial recognition and impressively, the ability to communicate in Japanese.

Ahead of the launch, the 34-centimeter (13-inch) tall Kirobo is alleged to have told reporters, “one small step for me, a giant leap for robots.”

Robot designer Tomotaka Takahashi of the University of Tokyo, advertiser Dentsu and automaker Toyota Motor Corp. is full of hopes for the robot.

“I wish for this robot to function as a mediator between person and machine, or person and Internet and sometimes even between people,” he told reporters.

JAXA, Japan’s equivalent of NASA, confirmed that the rocket launch and the separation of a cargo vehicle were successful.