Here comes a sentence I've always wanted to write: Japan has fired a talking robot into space.
The little talking robot Kirobo - whose name is derived from the Japanese words for 'robot' and 'hope' - is now en route to the International Space Station and should arrive there by August 9th.
Kirobo is programmed to be a companion for Japanese astronaut, Koichi Wakata, who is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station in November later this year. Kirobo is programmed to recognise Wakata's face upon his arrival and greet him in Japanese.
Kirobo will serve two functions on the Space Station. The cute litttle robot will record conversations with Wakata and send messages from the flight control room to the astronaut. The Guardian has also reported Kirobo will provide "emotional warmth and companionship" for Wakata when he arrives later this year.
Kirobo is just 34cm tall, weighs just under a kilogram and has been tested in zero-gravity situations. Its design was apparently inspired by the cartoon character, Astro Boy.
He also, as far as we know, conceals no whirring blades or laser guns, so, unlike the HAL 9000 in 2001: Space Odyssey or V.I.N.C.E.N.T. in The Black Hole, we're optimistic that Kirobo will fulfil his companionship duties admirably.