Japan's ISS Kirobo robot is lonely in space

The humanoid robot created to keep astronauts on the International Space Station company seems to have caught a case of intergalactic ennui. Cheer up, Kirobo!

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Kirobo sends his greetings to the Earth below as he floats around the ISS. Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

It can get lonely in space, even for a robot. Kirobo, the Japanese humanoid robot who is modeled after Astro Boy, was developed to entertain astronauts in space. But now that the robot's trip home has been delayed, it seems Kirobo is finding his stay at the International Space Station rather desolate.

Created by robot designer Tomotaka Takahashi, the Kirobo robot has a special mission "to help solve the problems brought about by a society that has become more individualized and less communicative," according to the Kibo Robot Project website. "Nowadays, more and more people are living alone. It's not just the elderly -- with today's changing lifestyles, it's people of all ages. With a new style of robot-human interface, perhaps a way to solve this problem could be found. This is the goal we have in mind for this project."

So far during its 18-month mission aboard the ISS, the robot befriended Japanese astronaut and ISS commander Koichi Wakata -- who can be seen chatting with the robot in multiple videos on the website.

Sadly, Wakata had to bid farewell to the adorable robot on May 2014. Last week, Kirobo relayed this melancholy message to his fans in a video entitled "Last message from the universe":

"'I'm a little tired, so I think I'll rest a while, but I hope you'll look up at the sky sometimes and think of me."

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Kirobo chats with his human buddy ISS commander Wakata. Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

The Kirobo Robot site confirmed that Kirobo's return to Earth, which was orginally scheduled for the end of this year, has been postponed. "The Kibo Robot Project is preparing to return Kirobo safely back to Earth next year. Details will be announced at a later date."

The tiny robot, which has facial recognition software and language processing technology from Toyota, takes photos and updates his Twitter account, when he's not amusing ISS astronauts.

For fans who want to always know the exact location of Kirobo while he's in space, there's the "Where is Kirobo?" app that lets you track the orbit of the International Space Station. Hold your smart phone up top the sky and maybe the little robot won't feel so alone.

 

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