** Mission accomplished after 18 months on International Space Station **
The first robot to speak in space, Toyota's Kirobo, has completed an historic 18-month mission by returning to Earth today from the International Space Station (ISS).
The diminutive "robonaut" - just 34cm tall and weighing about 1kg - was on board a cargo supply craft that performed a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean just before noon.
After having gone boldly where no robot has gone before, engineers in Japan will examine the pint-sized android and analyse the results of conversation experiments conducted on board the orbiting laboratory.
Toyota's role in the project focused on Kirobo's voice and face recognition technologies, which were essential to the experiments.
The company plans to use the experience gained in space to improve the range of interactive conversation technologies in its automotive and personal robotic assistance products.
Partners in the project also regard Kirobo's 558 days in space as an important first step in understanding how humans and robots might interact in space in the future.
To prepare for Kirobo's mission, engineers conducted 14 tests - including a range of thermal, acoustic and electromagnetic analyses and zero-gravity simulations - to ensure the android's inorganic nature would withstand the rigours of space.
Kirobo's marathon sojourn began on August 4 2013, from the Tanegashima Space Centre in southern Japan.
Later that month, Kirobo made history as the first robot to speak in space, declaring: "On August 21 2013, a robot took one small step towards a brighter future for all."
Four months later, Kirobo and astronaut Koichi Wakata - the first Japanese astronaut to assume command of the ISS - took part in the first conversation between a robot and a human in space.
The conversation took place in the space station's Japanese Experiment Module, nicknamed 'Kibo' after the word for hope in Japanese.
Commander Wakata's ISS expedition ended in May last year and Kirobo delivered a final message from space in August, thanking fans for their support.
Following this message, Kirobo was deactivated and readied for the return to Earth (after all, it's lonely in space).
In addition to Toyota, the project is the result of collaboration between Tokyo-based communications firm Dentsu Inc, the University of Tokyo's Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology (RCAST), Kyoto-based Robo Garage Co Ltd and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
RCAST and Robo Garage worked on Kirobo's hardware and body movement while Dentsu handled conversation content as well as overall project management.
You can watch the 2013 launch and Kirobo's first words in space here:
The project website is: http://kibo-robo.jp/en/
For more information, please contact:
Product Public Relations Manager
Tel: (02) 9710-3059
Mob: (0434) 442 261
Manager Public Relations
Tel: (02) 9710 3341
Mob: (0418) 447 064