Films like I Robot, AI and Blade Runner might not be in the realms of science fiction and fantasy if the speed of humanoid robot development continues to advance. Imagine Robots with human-like faces and a world where communications robots help patients get better.
This world is closer than you think.
Honda’s latest update brings ASIMO into autonomy in its interactions. ASIMO stands for “Advanced Step in Innovative MObility”. Its latest release has some very cool features.
Honda wanted to create a robot "to help people, interacting with them in their everyday lives". The All-New ASIMO has advanced to become an "autonomous machine".
It now has decision making capability to determine its behaviour in relation to its surroundings such as movements of people around it.
ASIMO can walk forwards, backwards or to the side. It can turn on the spot and turn whilst walking.
It can hop on one or two legs. It also can run at nine kilometres per hour making it the fastest humanoid robot in the world.
The robot can make American or Japanese sign language. It can walk on uneven surfaces, walk alongside a person, deliver drinks and shake a person’s hand.
ASIMO can even walk backwards, run up to, and kick a soccer ball.
It can respond to people moving around it and change its behaviour. It can predict the path a person will walk and change direction to avoid a collision. It can recognise the voices and the faces of three people speaking at the same time — hard for a human being to do.
Its hands control each finger independently allowing it to perform tasks with dexterity. If it holds a paper cup to pour liquid in, it does not squash the cup.
Honda has been making humanoid robots since 1986 when it launched its first experimental walking robot the E0. This robot could only walk in a straight line and took almost five seconds between steps. Its first ASIMO was launched in 2000.
In 2007 Honda connected two or more ASIMOs together to collaborate and complete tasks in the most efficient way. It introduced a self charging function for ASIMO to recognise when it needed to recharge itself.
Satoshi Shigemi, supervisor of robot development at Honda and Chief Engineer for All-New ASIMO said: "ASIMO was originally conceived as a communications robot that operates in conjunction with people and this remains our research focus for the future".
"The March 2011 earthquake in Japan illustrated the need for working robots capable of performing tasks in dangerous places on behalf of people. We are now even more committed to working towards the ultimate objective of producing robots that are genuinely useful to society, and naturally this includes ASIMO.”
Robots are already useful to society, and are used in many different ways. Humanoid robots such as ASIMO are already proving their future potential alongside people.
Hopefully humanoid robots will continue to assist humans — not end up replacing us.