In 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first man to speak in outer space. Fifty-two years later, Toyota has helped give a voice to the first robot astronaut to utter words while orbiting the earth.
The Toyota robot astronaut Kirobo’s historic first words reflected the importance of its 18-month mission: “On August 21, 2013, a robot took one small step towards a brighter future for all.”
Toyota Motor Corporation provided Kirobo’s voice recognition software and 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.
Kirobo left earth on August 4 following the successful launch of an H-IIB rocket from Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan. Sitting on top of the launch vehicle was Kounotori 4, a Japanese cargo vehicle containing the 34cm robot. After six days in orbit, Kounotori 4 docked with the International Space Station (ISS).
Kirobo will be joined by Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata later this year. Wakata will arrive on Expedition 38 to become the first Japanese astronaut to assume command of the orbiting space station. Once on board, at an orbiting altitude of nearly 250 miles above earth, Commander Wakata will take part in the first conversation held between a human being and robot in space. The planned conversation will take place in the Japanese Experiment Module, nicknamed “Kibo” after the word for hope in Japanese.
Kirobo and his earth-bound ‘brother’, Mirata, are two humanoid communication robots developed under the Kibo Robot Project, a joint research project between Dentsu Inc, the University of Tokyo’s Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology, Robo Garage Co, and Toyota Motor Corporation. The project is also extensively assisted by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
Provisional Mission Timeline (updated)
4 Aug 2013 Robot astronaut Kirobo leaves for the ISS
21 Aug 2013 Kirobo speaks for the first time in space
Nov-Dec, 2013 Commander Wakata arrives at the ISS
Nov-Dec, 2013 Commander Wakata and Kirobo have their first conversation
May-Jun, 2014 Commander Wakata leaves the ISS
Dec, 2014 (or later) Kirobo returns to Earth
Click on the link below to watch the full launch and Kirobo’s first words in space.