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Japan's space agency is considering putting a talking humanoid robot on the International Space Station (AP)

Japan's space agency is considering putting a talking humanoid robot on the International Space Station (AP)

Japan's space agency is considering putting a talking humanoid robot on the International Space Station (AP)

Lonely astronauts on the International Space Station may soon be getting an android friend from Japan - and for those left back on earth, it will tweet.

Japan's space agency is considering putting a talking humanoid robot on the space station to watch the mission while astronauts are asleep, monitor their health and stress levels and communicate to Earth through the microblogging site Twitter.

Japan's space agency Jaxa has announced that it is looking at a plan to send a humanoid robot to the space station in 2013 that will feed back photos on the internet and provide astronauts with "comfort and companionship".

Following up on Nasa's "Robonaut" R-2 programme, set for launch on the Discovery shuttle next week, the Japanese android would be part of a larger effort to create and refine robots that can be used by the elderly, Jaxa said.

Japan is one of the leading countries in robotics and has a rapidly ageing society with one of the world's longest life-expectancies.

Improving robot communication capabilities could help the elderly on Earth by providing a non-intrusive means of monitoring the robot owner's health and vital signs and sending information to emergency responders if there is an abnormality, Jaxa said.

"We are thinking in terms of a very human-like robot that would have facial expressions and be able to converse with the astronauts," said Jaxa's Satoshi Sano.

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The robot is being developed with the advertising and communications giant Dentsu and a team at Tokyo University.

The Nasa project has human-like head, hands and arms and uses the same tools as station crew members. The Robonaut called R-2 - in an homage to R2-D2 from the Star Wars films - is intended to carry out maintenance tasks in the station's Destiny lab.

Nasa says it hopes that humanoid robots could one day stand in for astronauts during spacewalks or perform tasks too difficult or dangerous for humans. For now, the £1.5 million Nasa robot exists only from the waist up and is limited to activities within the lab.


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