The talking robot launched to the International Space Station in August has sent its first audio/visual message to Earth. Kirobo, the mini Japanese robot — which appears to have the bravado of Buzz Lightyear and the cuteness of WALL-E — is just .34 meters (13.4-inches) long. Kirobo is designed to be able to have conversations with its astronaut crewmates and to study how robot-human interactions can help the astronauts in the space environment. In its first message, Kirobo wished Earth a “good morning” and mentioned (and motioned) its giant step in getting to space.
Kirobo is part of a research project sponsored by the University of Tokoyo and Toyota, and the robot will be working closely with Koichi Wakata, slated to be the first Japanese commander of the ISS for Expedition 39, who will launch this November as part of the Expedition 38/39 crew. An identical robot named Mirata remains on Earth for additional testing.
Kirobo is designed to navigate in zero-gravity, have facial recognition of its fellow crewmates, and will assist Wakata in various experiments. No word on whether it will have access to opening or closing the various hatches on the space station.