In space, no one can hear you scream, but they can hear a little robot speaking greetings in Japanese. Toyota announced today that a robot spoke from space for the first time. On August 21, the communications robot, Kirobo, sent greetings back to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS). Kirobo said, in translation, “On August 21, 2013, a robot took one small step toward a brighter future for all.”
In addition to its first words, Kirobo also sent greetings and a photo to its back-up robot, Mirata, which is used to help troubleshoot if anything goes wrong with Kirobo in orbit.
Kirobo, who only speaks Japanese, won’t have much else to do until November or December – that's when Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata, the first Japanese commander of the ISS, arrives. He will conduct the first conversation with a robot in space in the ISS’s Kibo (Hope) Japanese Experiment Module.
Built as part of a project in human/robot interactions in space, Kirobo has been aboard the ISS for a month. The robot was first sent up aboard the Kounotori 4 cargo ship launched from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center on August 4, arriving six days later.
Kirobo is one of two humanoid verbal-communication robots built by the Kibo Robot Project; a partnership that includes Dentsu, the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo, Robo Garage and Toyota, with assistance from the JAXA. Weighing only a kilogram (2.2 lb), it’s capable of face and speech recognition, recognizing emotions, and is designed to operate in zero gravity. It’s scheduled to remain on the ISS for a year and a half before returning to Earth.
The video below shows Kirobo saying its first words in space.