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Talking space droid Kirobo yaps away on ISS

"One small step for robots," says deceptively friendly Kirobo, a conversation droid designed to liven up the ISS.

Screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

"Robots take their first step for a future of hope," the first talking space robot has said in its inaugural message from the International Space Station.

Kirobo's voice sounds more like a squeak than the mighty baritone of say, Megatron, but the 13-inch droid's message heralds a new era for astro-companions.

Made in Japan, Kirobo arrived at the ISS last month after a Japanese H-IIB rocket ride. It'll orbit our planet for about a year and a half, and ISS crews will have to learn to love its nasal whine.

The message was recorded on August 21, but has only just been released. As seen in the vid below, a floating Kirobo announces the date, then says his message while taking a "step" in zero-g.

As it speaks in Japanese, there are several ways to translate the bot's words. But "surrender Earthlings or face annihilation" would be a stretch.

Kirobo is a conversational companion robot designed to process natural language, and has voice-recognition software provided by Toyota. It was developed by Tomotaka Takahashi of Robo-Garage and collaborators.

It will take verbal orders from Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata as well as remote-control commands from Earth.

Since other astronauts will have to learn some Japanese to interact with it, Kirobo could well prove to be the most entertaining thing aboard the ISS since guitar-strumming Canadian commander Chris Hadfield.