Kirobo Talking Robot Heads into Space

KiroboToday Forbes published an article about the launch of Japan’s Kirobo conversational robot into space. We wrote about Kirobo in a previous post. Now, after a successful launch, the little guy is set to reach the International Space Station (ISS) on August 10th.

Just last week we took a look at SuperToy Teddy, a Teddy bear that can be transformed into a true conversational partner by means of a smartphone and a chatbot app. The makers of Kirobo, who include Toyota and the University of Tokyo, have taken the concept even further. They’ve created what appears to be a fully functioning, foot high humanoid robot that can walk and talk and turn to look at the person its chatting with.

The team behind Kirobo seems to be interested in exploring the potential psychological benefits of robot companionship for humans. Astronauts on their way to Mars, or those couped up in the ISS for a year, are an extreme example of humans living in isolation. But loneliness is a part of modern human existence, even for city dwellers surrounded by thousands of other people. Kirobo offers a way to study the effects that a conversational robot can have on people in isolation. Perhaps we’ll have an opportunity to watch a broadcast of Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who is set to arrive at the ISS later this year, speaking live with Kirobo from inside the station. And here’s a question: can Kirobo go on a spacewalk without putting on a suit?

Whatever the team learns from Kirobo’s trip to space could be used to improve how the robot functions and talks. Maybe one day soon commercial models will be available to offer companionship to folks here on earth.  It’s always good to have someone to talk to. Hopefully they’ll come out with a model that can converse in English as well as Japanese. Take a look at the Kirobo unveiling video if you want to see the talking robot in action. You have to admit he’s pretty darned cute!

Talking Robot Set to Join Astronaut in Space

KiroboSpace is lonely and if something bad happens up there, nobody can hear you scream, right? Well, one Japanese astronaut no longer needs to fear the isolation. iTechPost reports that a talking robot is set to journey to the International Space Station (ISS) to provide Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata with companionship.  The robot is called “Kirobo” and it speaks Japanese.

Astronaut Wakata won’t actually be alone in the ISS. There will be other astronauts and cosmonauts around. But little Kirobo, who stands barely a foot tall, will be the only other Japanese speaker on the station. Wakata is scheduled to be the Commander of Expedition 39 to the ISS and spend about 6 months in space.

Another article on the talking robot Kirobo in Design Boom states that the chatty android uses natural language processing and recognition technology from Toyota. It would be interesting to know more about the little bot’s conversational abilities. Perhaps some of its skills can be leveraged in the future to improve the conversational skills of virtual agents serving people right here on Earth.