Kirobo - Wa and Kaizen

This summer witnessed the launch of robot Kirobo to the International Space Station. Whilst there, the little robonaut will carry out a series of experiments, making history by becoming the first robot to hold a conversation with a human in space.

The robots of the future will have to have all the abilities of Kirobo: listening, answering and recognising, but also be able to gain knowledge and communicate with human warmth.

Since ancient times this warmth has been represented in Japan through the ideology of Wa, or harmony. By designing the robots now and in the future with this philosophy of compassion and hospitality, we can look forward to a world where humans and robots coexist.

Toyota’s role in the project has been to engineer voice and facial recognition technologies. Like every process within the company, Kirobo’s development has been conducted under the Japanese practice of Kaizen, or continuous improvement.

With a business or process fully immersed in the Kaizen practise, quality, procedures and morale will only improve. With the input of all team members, identifying problems at all stages and empowering them to suggest ways to resolve and improve, a better end product can be the only result.

This Toyota way of working has been copied around the world and in many areas of business. The rewards of this methodology can be seen with the enviable reputation Toyota has of being one of the most efficient and reliable car manufacturers in the world.

With all the excitement surrounding Kirobo’s mission, it is important to remember that the long-term aim of the Kibo Robot Project is for robots to provide companionship to those who need them most. And Kirobo represents the first step towards this vision of the future.

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