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.
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.