updated 12:40 pm EST, Tue November 8, 2011
ASIMO gets key improvements, new arm shown
Honda just brought one of the most significant updates yet for its ASIMO humanoid robot. It now has what Honda calls the world's first autonomous behavior control technology that doesn't require a human operator. This also gave it greater intelligence and the physical ability to adapt to situations.
The robot now uses multiple sensors to gather numerous inputs to gauge the direction of walking humans and take steps to prevent getting in their way. It can also now distinguish voices and faces from a group of people talking at the same time.
ASIMO also received stronger limbs, including legs that are both stronger and have an expanded range of movement. Thanks to these changes, it can now walk, run, run backwards or hop on one or both legs. New hands include one tactile and one force sensor in each finger and the palm to perform delicate tasks such as holding a glass bottle and twisting off its cap or pouring water from a soft paper cup. The new mitts allow ASIMO to make sign language signals.
The other improvements involve dropping the weight by 6kg to 48, more than doubling the degrees of freedom (now at 57 versus 23), and increasing the running speed to 9km/h (5.6mph) from 6.
At the same time, Honda created a new collective name, Honda Robotics, to represent its efforts in robotics technologies. It has also introduced an experimental robot arm for performing tasks. Based on what it's learned with ASIMO, Honda wants to use the arm for operations that are dangerous to or difficult to access for humans.