Okay, I added in the "jive" part. Because that's really all anyone wants out of a talking space robot, right? The robot, Kirobo, actually speaks Japanese, and was developed by Toyota as part of their research into human-machine interactions. Oh, and because it's Japanese, the robot is adorable.

The robot is pretty small-scale, and not intended for much physical work like the American robot, Robonaut. The purpose of Kirobo (the name is a portmanteau of Kib0 (which means "hope" and is the name of Japan's ISS module, plus "robo") is to be the first robot in space capable of natural and easy verbal communication. The robot's software gives it an ability to listen and comprehend human speech at a much greater level than the question/response method of most computerized language systems currently in use.

Kirobo also has advanced facial-recognition technology, and should recognize and interact with its old pal, Commander Wakata, when he arrives at the space station.


A BBC article quotes the robot's developer, Tomotaka Takahashi,

"Kirobo will remember Mr Wakata's face so it can recognise him when they reunite up in space,' the robot's developer, Tomotaka Takahashi said.

'I wish for this robot to function as a mediator between a person and machine, or a person and the Internet, and sometimes even between people."


Kirobo is currently en route to the space station in Japan's HTV-4 unmanned cargo vehicle, making it the first humanoid-shaped object capable of holding a conversation ever to travel to the space station in an unmanned cargo vehicle. I was really working hard to find a first there.

The real question here is whether or not the addition of a cute, small new character barely capable of holding a conversation to the ISS will be considered its "Cousin Oliver" moment and spell the beginning of the end for the station. I hope not, but best to be aware of these things.