ASIMO was introduced to the world by Honda on the 21st of October, 2000 and it has been capturing the imagination of gadget lovers ever since. Not only is the little robot the personification (not technically speaking, obviously) of Honda’s forward-thinking, it has also enjoyed some high-profile exposure over the years, from walking down the red carpet at the 2005 CGI film, Robots, to being one of the main attractions at Disneyland’s “Tomorrowland” area and more specifically, its Say hello to ASIMO attraction.
The name is an acronym derived from Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, and it is this mobility that has made ASIMO so renowned. Being able to walk comfortably, run (at 6kmph), climb and descend stairs/slopes, and assessing its surroundings and adjusting its footing accordingly. It has 34 “degrees of movement” meaning it is not only the legs and waist that keep this robot stable, but its neck and arm joints as well.
Over the years the robot has acquired new skills, with the clear goal of interacting fluidly with humans. With its two eye-like cameras, it can spot moving objects, judge depth and distance and can recognize a number of hand gestures, including a person waving, pointing or even offering their hand to shake. The little robot can also respond to someone calling its name, and it can remember up to 10 people and address them by name.
Recently, the 130cm tall robot took on the role of tour guide at Honda’s Miraikan (未来館/Future Building) science museum. Although it does not have full voice recognition, it has over 100 questions/answers stored in its memory, which guests can access via a touch screen. But its mobility is still far more fluid than its social skills, as it got confused when guests at the museums pointed their cameras at ASIMO to take a picture, the robot mistook the gesture for them raising their hand to ask a question, to which ASIMO is programmed to respond, “Who wants to ask ASIMO a question?”
Currently on a four week trial, it seems that ASIMO may need a little tinkering before it is a fully functioning guide. The robots technology specialist at Honda, Satoshi Shigemi stated:
Although it may seem like stumbling at the first hurdle, this four week trial period will help developers learn more about ASIMO’s strengths and more importantly, its weaknesses, so that they can be rectified ASAP. So although humans living alongside robots is still merely an idea, ASIMO continues to bridge the gap between fantasy and reality.