When you think of Japanese robots, you might imagine model kit Gundams or their super-sized equivalents in cartoons.
Well, meet the profoundly unGundam-like Kirobo, purportedly the world's first talking humanoid space robot. As you're reading this, Kirobo is on its way to the International Space Station to await fellow Japanese Koichi Wakata, an astronaut due to arrive at the station in November.
Kirobo is part of the Kibo Robot project, jointly developed by Toyota, Dentsu, University of Tokyo's Rcast and Robo Garage.
It's not very big - think 34cm and less than a kilogram. If you think Kirobo looks familiar, it's because the robot was modelled after the popular Japanese cartoon figure Astro Boy.
This little guy is programmed to recognise Wakata's face and greet him on his arrival. That's assuming he makes it from where he was fired into space, which was the Tanegashima space centre in southern Japan, along with 3.5 tons of supplies.
Slightly creepy is that Kirobo is programmed to also record every conversation it has with Wakata, while also relaying messages to the astronaut from the command centre. No trash talking the robot, Wakata! It'll tell on you!
[source: The Guardian]