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Japan is Determined to Prove Humans and Robots Can Live Together [VIDEO]

Jun 27, 2013 09:34 PM EDT
Humanoid communication robot Kirobo talks to Fuminori Kataoka, project general manager in the Product Planning Group of Toyota Motor Corp, during its unveiling in Tokyo June 26, 2013.
(Photo : Reuters)

Meet Kirobo, the little robot that dreams of a world where humans and robots can live together. A Japanese creation, Kirobo is headed for the International Space Station (ISS) in August where it will help the astronauts there perform experiments on social interaction as a way to reduce stress in a confined living space.

"I hope that through this project, humans and robots will be able to live together through communication with one another," Tomotaka Takahashi, a research professor with Tokyo University and one of the participants in the project said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Takahasi further explained that while Japanese people believe "robots and humans can be friends," he doesn't believe this is the case for those of other nations.

The reason, he explains, is that Japanese children are raised with manga stories about friendly robots.

As someone raised with those stories himself, Takahashi said he, along with his colleagues, viewed outer space as the perfect setting to demonstrate to the rest of the world that "robots and humans can live together easily."

Kirobo will accompany Koichi Wakata, a Japanese astronaut set to arrive at the ISS later this year. Because the two have already met, Kirobo's inventors explained to the AFP that the robot will be able to recognize Wakata's face when they reunite up in space.

Kirobo will also be able to play a role in some missions by relaying messages from the control room to the astronaut, Takahashi said.

And nor is Kirobo the only one of its kind: Mirata, the robot's sister, is the "smart" one, the makers explained. Boasting many of the same functions as Kirobo, Mirata is more adept at collecting and remembering information and "growing" from the process. Kirobo, however, while perhaps not as intelligent, is the "gentle" one, capable of responding to questions, listening attentively and greeting people via face recognition. Only the latter, however, is headed to space.

The experiment represents a collaboration between advertising and PR company Dentsu, the Research Center for Advanced Science Technology, the University of Tokyo, Robo Garage and Toyota Motor Corp.

"Russia was the first to go to outer space, the U.S. was the first to go the Moon; we want Japan to be the first to send a robot-astronaut to space that can communicate with humans," said Yorichika Nishijima, the Kirobo project manager.

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