Talking humanoid robot launches on Japan rocket

from The first talking humanoid robot “astronaut” has taken off in a rocket.

Kirobo — derived from the Japanese words for “hope” and “robot” — was
among five tons of supplies and machinery on a rocket launched Sunday
for the International Space Station from Tanegashima, southwestern
Japan, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, said.

The childlike robot was designed to be a companion for astronaut
Koichi Wakata, and will communicate with another robot on Earth,
according to 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 could move and talk where there was no gravity.

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

Japan boasts the most sophisticated robotics in the world, but
because of its “manga” culture, it tends to favor cute robots with
human-like characteristics with emotional appeal, a use of technology
that has at times drawn criticism for being not productive.

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

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

JAXA, Japan’s equivalent of NASA, said the rocket launch was
successful, and the separation of a cargo vehicle, carrying the robot to
the space station, was confirmed about 15 minutes after liftoff.

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