For over ten years, Honda has been engineering and developing their latest humanoid robot. The Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility robot, or ASIMO, was born in 2000. ASIMO represents the newest technology and innovation in Honda’s line of humanoid robots.
Honda’s History of Humanoid Robots
When thinking of humanoid robots, the Star Wars trilogy, RoboCop, and other science-fiction movies from the 1980’s spring to mind. However, the robots in these movies are vastly different from the technology actually being developed.
In 1986, Honda released their first experimental humanoid robot called E0. Maintaining the Star Wars reference, E0, as well as the rest of the E-series robots, looked like C3PO from the waist down, in that they had no upper half. C3PO could walk at a normal human’s pace. Honda’s E0 could only take one step every five seconds. With such a slow walking pace and no arms or grippers, E0 did not have much purpose other than to prove that humanoid robots can walk on two legs.
Honda developed six more experimental robots, E1-E6, from 1987 to 1993 that displayed better walking and balancing abilities.
The next step was to add arms, a torso, and a head to make the robot truly humanlike. Honda developed three prototypes for this purpose, the P1, P2, and P3. The P1 robot was the first prototype that could turn electrical switches on and off, pick up and carry objects and grab door knobs. The P2 robot was released in December 1996 and utilized wireless technology, a computer, motor drives, a radio, and other devices to become the first self-regulated, two-legged humanoid robot. The P2 weighed in at 210kg and was 1,820mm tall. The last prototype robot was the P3 robot. It weighed only 130kg and was only 1,600mm tall. The reduction in weight and height can be attributed to lighter materials and a decentralized control system. Released in September 1997, the P3 was the first completely autonomous, two-legged humanoid walking robot.
Created in 2000, ASIMO represents the culmination of years of research and development. ASIMO is composed of both old and new technologies. Improvements over previous humanoid robots include better walking and running, intelligence programs, better coordination and turning, and changes in size.
By studying human movements, walking and running have become more fluid and less mechanical looking. Coordination of the entire body allows for this as well as other movements that require flexibility and balance. Coordination also allows ASIMO to turn while walking or running without pausing.
ASIMO was developed to be smaller and lighter than its predecessors. This robot is intended to be used in households and interact with humans. Honda developers decided to make ASIMO 130cm tall. At this height, ASIMO can effectively use switches, tables, and other household products, as well as look at a human sitting down at eye level. Because of improved materials and a smaller size, ASIMO weighs only 54kg.
Because ASIMO was developed for household use, the ability to recognize specific people and interact with them needed to be addressed. Developers implemented software that allows ASIMO to recognize moving objects, postures, gestures, and other environmental stimuli, as well as distinguish the source of sounds and distinguish specific faces. ASIMO can also provide users with information from the Internet via its wireless connectivity.