One small step for man, one giant leap for robot kind. Japanese researchers have launched a tiny walking talking robot, named Kirobo, up to the International Space Station, with the mission of providing friendly companionship to Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.
The mission will not begin until November, when Wakata arrives on-board at the ISS. Kirobo will speak and be a good friend for the astronaut while he goes around his daily space business. To do this, this robot has been outfitted with facial recognition software, cameras, and the ability to walk (SO useful in space...). It is the hope of the creators that Kirobo and robots like it will become companions to the elderly and those who are bed-ridden.
This may be an exciting start to introducing robotic astronauts, as Kirobo is slated for an 18-month stay aboard the ISS. What's more interesting though is this will take another look at the question asked by plenty of Sci-Fi: "can people and robots have a natural friendship?"
Source: Kibo Robotc Project