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Twenty years in the making - ASIMO the humanoid robot

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June 4, 2004

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Honda has come a long way towards realising its vision of creating a humanoid robot since its bi-pedal (two-legged) robot named "EO" successfully took its first steps in 1986. Culminating in ASIMO, the highly-advanced, stair climbing, hand shaking humanoid robot that made its first US appearance last month, Honda's research continues to focus on the development of robots that can improve our quality of life by interacting and performing tasks in human situations.

New advancements have given ASIMO the ability to move freely in "3D" environments and navigate irregular obstacles like staircases as well as turn on the spot on slopes that demand a change in posture with every step. ASIMO can also correct its own foot placement position and body direction one step at a time, creating its specific route independently, and more efficiently. Improvements were also made to the "human interface" features, enabling ASIMO to receive voice input and guide customers (currently only in Japanese). In addition to commands from a PC, it is now possible to use voice commands to control arm and hand motions and locomotion through an on-board CPU.Using "predicted movement control" ASIMO can anticipate its next movement in real time and shift its center of gravity accordingly. ASIMO's stride can be adjusted real time using a portable controller, allowing it to walk faster or slower without requiring stored walking patterns as with its immediate predecessors P2 and P3. The first actual application for ASIMO is as an "info-tainment" host - the unit can be rented out for corporate functions and special events and utilised to welcome guests and provide them with information.

Honda engineers began researching how humans walk in developing the first generation "E" series robots between 1987 and 1992. Engineers used the "E" series to establish stable walking technology, including steps and sloped surfaces and followed up with the P series humanoid robots including the world's first self-regulating, two-legged humanoid walking robot - P2 - which utilised wireless techniques. P2 stood at a height of six feet, much taller than the four foot ASIMO.

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About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon
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