The Honda Motors Corporation introduced a new version of its humanoid robot that can jog, find its way around obstacles and respond to human touch.
Developers of the robot that looks like a child in astronaut suit and is named Asimo, say the new model is a significant advance over earlier versions and bring them closer to a bipedal machine that can move on its own, through homes and offices and interact naturally with human beings.
But despite the technological advances, Honda has not made much progress in just what the robot might be used for. “We want to develop something that is useful to people. We want to think more about how, as we get along.” Said Takabonu ho a Managing Director and the head of the company’s research and development division.
The robot 4 ft. and 3 inches tall, demonstrated its form on Wednesday. It walked onto a wide stage and then after a few steps, drew its arms closer to its sides and lifted its knees high as it broke into a jog, hydraulic muscles whirring loudly. Perfecting the running motion was a technological challenge, the robots developer said, because the rapid arm movement tended to throw the robot off balance. To counteract these forces engineers installed a new joint in the robot’s hips.
Asimo also received new joints in its wrists and hand, to make it more adapt at picking up small objects, and one in the neck allowing it to tip its head to the side. Androids like Asimo are becoming increasingly common in robot happy Japan. Honda introduced its first walking robot in 1996. Sony is making its humanoid robot and a robotic dog called Albo. Toyota unveiled its humanoid robot in March.
Honda executives have said that they envision an era when robots will work as aids for the elderly or perform dangerous tasks. Robot technology may also someday have application in auto assembly plants. But Honda concedes that the day when humanoid robots will be available in showrooms alongside Civic sedan is still a long way off.
Honda has been renting out earlier versions of its robots as guides in museums or to entertain at company events. For this the company charges a million yen a day. The car manufacturer will not say how much it has invested and spent in developing the robots. Japanese press reports have put the figure in the tens of millions of dollars.