Yesterday in Tokyo, Honda unveiled its latest incarnation of the famous dancing humanoid robot, Asimo. Compared to the previous model released four years ago, the new version is lighter, faster, more intelligent, and has a whole bunch of new features. Unfortunately, I am quite disappointed with Honda’s latest robot as it seems to merely do a lot of things, but all of them poorly.
Improved specs and “intelligence”
The new Asimo has a lighter weight, better battery life, and faster speeds, as expected of any technology after four years of development. Below are the summary of Asimo’s new specs:
- Height: 130 cm (4 ft 3 in)
- Weight: 48 kg (105 lbs)
- Battery life: 40 min (continuous walking)
- Number of joints: 57 (13 in just the hand)
- Max speed: 9 km/hr (5.6 mi/hr)
The significant improvement Honda announced was in Asimo’s “intelligence.” Honda admits that the 2007 Asimo was essentially a remote control robot, which can only repeat a pre-programmed motion in a controlled environment. The new Asimo acts autonomously – Asimo will sense its surroundings with cameras and sensors and decide the best way to do things. That means Asimo can maintain balance in unstable environments and avoid bumping into obstacles or even other people, among other tasks that require instantaneous decision-making based on surroundings.
Honda showed off Asimo’s new skills, equipped with this new “intelligence”:
Skill 1: Walking on unstable terrain
Skill 2: Running at 9 km/hr (or 5.6 mi/hr)
Skill 3: Kicking a soccer ball
Skill 4: Unscrewing a bottle and pouring liquid into a paper cup
Skill 5: Communicating in sign language
Asimo does a lot of things, but all of them poorly
Personally, I am quite disappointed with Honda’s latest creation. While Asimo has a wide range of new actions, none of them are groundbreaking. Furthermore, many single-tasked robots have done each of Asimo’s skills much more fluently. I don’t mean to discredit Honda’s achievements: I fully recognize the difficulty in putting all of these skills into a single robot. However, instead of a tool that does a lot of things poorly, perhaps Honda should be developing a tool that does a single task perfectly.