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‘Kirobo’ has historic conversation on ISS Toyota to use experiment to improve technologies for products

DUBAI, Dec 28: Robot Astronaut Kirobo and astronaut Koichi Wakata made history when they had a conversation on the International Space Station (ISS) on Dec 6, 2013.  The conversation was the first of its kind between a human and a robot in outer space and represents the latest development in the Kibo Robot Project, a joint research project carried out by Dentsu, RCAST (Research Centre for Advanced Science & Technology), University of Tokyo, Robo Garage and Toyota Motor Corporation. JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) is also providing extensive assistance. Kirobo arrived at the space station in early August.

This experiment represents autonomous conversation using voice recognition technology as well as communication with people on Earth.
An extract from the conversation experiment is enclosed below:
Wakata: How did you get out here into space, Kirobo?
Kirobo: On the Kounotori  from Tanegashima Space Center.
Wakata: Right. So you came here on the Kounotori?
Kirobo: Not the bird, of course! A rocket.
Wakata: It’s incredible that you came here all by yourself.
Kirobo: Well, I’m a robot!
Toyota is responsible for voice and face recognition functions that are crucial to the experiments. Toyota plans to use experience gained from the orbital experiments to improve the range of interactive conversation technologies it uses in its automotive and personal robotic assistance products.
Before he was allowed to fly, Kirobo had to prove he had the right stuff by passing a range of tests. These included a parabolic flight test to examine behaviour in ‘zero G’ conditions, and a vibration test, to ensure he was tough enough to withstand the intense force of a rocket launch.
Further conversations will be held, and conversation logs and other data will be utilized by the project participants. The key aims of the project are to facilitate the coexistence of humans and robots, and to explore possible future deployment of communication robots in outer space.
Kirobo’s basic specifications
Dimensions: Height: 34 cm, Width: 18 cm, Depth: 15 cm (approx.) Weight: 1 kg (approx.) Language: Japanese.
Main features: Voice recognition, natural language processing, voice synthesis, telecommunications functions, gestures, facial recognition camera, recording camera.
Key project developments to date
Nov 29, 2012:  The project is announced; public begins proposing robot names.
Jun 26, 2013: Kirobo and ground crew member Mirata are completed and publicly introduced.
Aug 4, 2013: Kirobo leaves Japan for the ISS aboard the Kounotori 4 transfer vehicle.
Aug 10, 2013: Kirobo arrives on the ISS.
Aug 21, 2013: Kirobo speaks his first words in outer space:
 “On August 21, 2013, a robot took one small step toward a brighter future for all”.
Future project plans
Dec 2014: Kirobo scheduled to return to Earth.

Kibo Robot Project website: http://kibo-robo.jp/en/  

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