Kirobo, space robot capable of human conversation co-developed by Toyota, unveiled in Tokyo

Article by Anita Panait, on July 1, 2013

A humanoid robot co-developed by Toyota Motor Corp. will have the first human-robot conversation in space as part of a project to create machines that can interact with and assist people living alone.  Kirobo, a 13-inch-tall humanoid robot, was unveiled in Tokyo to the theme song of Astro Boy, an anime series about coexistence of humans and robots.

During a briefing, Kirobo remarked, “this is one small step for me, but one giant leap for robots." Toyota’s voice-recognition technology developed will allow Kirobo to remember human voices and respond to them in Japanese.

The carmaker intends to use findings from the project to improve the partner robots it builds that can perform functions like housework and assisting people who have difficulty walking. Toyota, advertising firm Dentsu Inc and researchers from University of Tokyo are partnering on the project.

University of Tokyo Associate Professor Tomotaka Takahashi, remarked that Japanese people are “more comfortable with the idea of living and communicating with robots,” since such scene is popular in manga, which refers to Japanese comics.

Takahashi added that in around 15 years, they “want to see a society where everyone is living with a personal robot.”

Toyota is developing its partner robots partly because Japan is home to one of the fastest-aging populations in the world. It is estimated that one in every four people in Japan will be older than 65 in 2014, compared with almost one in every ten people in China and 14 percent in the United States, according to data compiled by the US Census Bureau.

Kirobo is set to depart from Japan for the International Space Station aboard the Kounotori 4 cargo spacecraft in August 2013. [source: automotive news - sub. required]

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