Japan is about to take another giant leap in adorable space exploration, by launching an exceptionally cute robot into space.

Kirobo, designed by Dentsu with Toyota and the University of Tokyo, is a voice activated, technically advanced artificial person, about a foot high.

Capable of recognising human facial emotions and body language, and responding in kind, the robot is mainly intended as an educational tool than a genuine exploration robot or AI companion. Which given the history of sci-fi, is probably for the best.

japan space agency


Kirobo will be taken by the Japan Space Agency on a trip to the International Space Station on 4 August., where he will hold the first human-robot conversation in space.

It is not known whether Kirobo will also hold the first robot-to-robot conversation in space, since the legless Robonaut 2 is already on the ISS helping astronauts with science experiments and other research.

It is hoped that eventually robots like Kirobo (meaning Hope Robot) will be able to keep humans company in space.


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  • Kirobo

    Humanoid communication robot Kirobo is shown during a press unveiling in Tokyo Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The world’s first space conversation experiment between a robot and humans is ready to be launched. Developers from the Kirobo project, named after “kibo” or hope in Japanese and “robot,” gathered to demonstrate the humanoid robot’s ability to talk. Kirobo, jointly developed by advertising and PR company Dentsu Inc., Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo, Robo Garage Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., is scheduled to be launched from the Tanegashima Space Center on August 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

  • Kirobo, Mirata, Tomotaka Takahashi, Fuminori Kataoka

    Humanoid communication robots, Kirobo, bottom left, and Mirata, bottom right, are held by Tomotaka Takahashi, left, CEO of Robo Garage Co. and project associate professor from the University of Tokyo, and Fuminori Kataoka, project general manager from Toyota Motor Corp., during a press unveiling in Tokyo Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The world’s first space conversation experiment between a robot and humans is ready to be launched. Developers from the Kirobo project, named after “kibo” or hope in Japanese and “robot,” gathered to demonstrate the robot’s ability to talk. Kirobo, jointly developed by advertising and PR company Dentsu Inc., Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo, Robo Garage and Toyota., is scheduled to be launched from the Tanegashima Space Center on August 4, 2013. Kirobo's land-based counterpart Mirata is not designed to go into outer space but has the ability to learn through conversations it has. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

  • Kirobo, Fuminori Kataoka

    Humanoid communication robot Kirobo, center, talks with Fuminori Kataoka, project general manager from Toyota Motor Corp., during a press unveiling in Tokyo Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The world’s first space conversation experiment between a robot and humans is ready to be launched. Developers from the Kirobo project, named after “kibo” or hope in Japanese and “robot,” gathered to demonstrate the humanoid robot’s ability to talk. Kirobo, jointly developed by advertising and PR company Dentsu Inc., Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo, Robo Garage Co. and Toyota., is scheduled to be launched from the Tanegashima Space Center on Aug. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

  • Kirobo, Fuminori Kataoka

    Humanoid communication robot Kirobo, left, talks with Fuminori Kataoka, project general manager from Toyota Motor Corp., during a press unveiling in Tokyo Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The world’s first space conversation experiment between a robot and humans is ready to be launched. Developers from the Kirobo project, named after “kibo” or hope in Japanese and “robot,” gathered to demonstrate the humanoid robot’s ability to talk. Kirobo, jointly developed by advertising and PR company Dentsu Inc., Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, the University of Tokyo, Robo Garage Co. and Toyota., is scheduled to be launched from the Tanegashima Space Center on August 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

  • JAPAN-SPACE-ROBOT-TECHNOLOGY

    Japanese Tokyo University robot creator Tomotaka Takahashi displays a humanoid robot Kirobo (R) and its back-up robot Mirata in Tokyo on June 26, 2013. A small humanoid robot Kirobo which talks will be sent into space to provide conversational company for a Japanese astronaut in the international space station on a six-month mission in August. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • JAPAN-SPACE-ROBOT-TECHNOLOGY

    Japanese auto giant Toyota Motor engineer Fuminori Kataoka chats with humanoid robot Kirobo in Tokyo on June 26, 2013. A small humanoid robot Kirobo which can talk will be sent into space to provide conversational company for a Japanese astronaut in the international space station on a six-month mission from this August. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • JAPAN-SPACE-ROBOT-TECHNOLOGY

    Japan's Tokyo University robot creator Tomotaka Takahashi demonstrates a humanoid robot Kirobo which reacts to Takahashi's voice and speaks with gestures in Tokyo on June 26, 2013. A small humanoid robot Kirobo which can talk will be sent into space to provide conversational company for a Japanese astronaut in the international space station on a six-month mission from this August. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • JAPAN-SPACE-ROBOT-TECHNOLOGY

    Japanese auto giant Toyota Motor engineer Fuminori Kataoka chats with humanoid robot Kirobo in Tokyo on June 26, 2013. A small humanoid robot Kirobo which can talk will be sent into space to provide conversational company for a Japanese astronaut in the international space station on a six-month mission from this August. AFP PHOTO / Yoshikazu TSUNO (Photo credit should read YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)