Japan’s robo-astronaut aboard ISS takes ‘one small step’


A pint-size android has uttered the first robotic words in space, showcasing Japan’s drive to combine cutting-edge technology with cuteness.

The wide-eyed and bootie-wearing Kirobo — roughly the size of a chihuahua — broadcast a message from inside the International Space Station, greeting citizens of Earth and paying cheeky tribute to Neil Armstrong.

“On Aug. 21, 2013, a robot took one small step toward a brighter future for all,” Kirobo said in a video that showed the humanoid creation drifting weightlessly on-board the ISS, as it moved its legs in the air.

The images made their global debut Wednesday as part of Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Games during a presentation ahead of a meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Buenos Aires that will decide the host city.

“Good morning to everyone on Earth. This is Kirobo. I am the world’s first talking robot astronaut. Nice to meet you,” it said in Japanese.

The humanoid was created jointly by advertising firm Dentsu, the University of Tokyo, robot developer Robo Garage and Toyota Motor Corp.

The robot stands just 34 cm tall and weighs about 1 kg.

It left Earth on Aug. 4 on a cargo-carrying rocket that was also delivering supplies to the ISS.

Kirobo is programmed to communicate in Japanese and keep records of its conversations with Koichi Wakata, the first Japanese astronaut to command the ISS.

The robot is part of a study aimed at seeing how a nonhuman companion can provide emotional support for people isolated over long periods.

  • Paulo Debenest

    As a robot developer based in Japan, I feel a little ashamed to see the amount of exposure a toy like this receives, when there are still so many serious problems that could benefit from the use of robots left behind – the nuclear disaster at Fukushima being only one of them.

  • nobuo takamura

    Kirobo is sure to be a humanoid being just like a human being. Words produced by him are sure to help astronauts speak with him or her about everything, trivial or not, because words spoken out, not inner ones, are sure to energize them into satisfactory fatigue, not risky tiresomeness.