I always have a soft spot for Honda’s ASIMO – it is probably one of the most advanced “consumer” targeted robot. Honda keeps making improvements on ASIMO since it was introduce in the year 2000. The initial version, I recall; it was boxy, not flexible, slow, and was underpowered.
Honda has revealed a new version of ASIMO, its humanoid robot, now able to climb stairs smoothly and communicate using sign language. Shown off in New York this week, ASIMO may look the same as before to the casual glance, but Honda has in fact reworked both the upper and lower body, including adding extra degrees of freedom to the hands so that they can be used for more precise tasks.
Honda's ASIMO robot has been given a new round of upgrades, slimming down and gaining the ability to autonomously monitor and interact with its environment, out of the control of a human operator. Advanced balancing - including quick reactions when ASIMO senses it's falling - together with an array of sensors that track physical objects and moving people, and predictive response algorithms that can independently decide on the next course of action all come together and shift the robot another step closer to integrating into a public environment.
Well, you all saw the recent fall of Honda's ASIMO robot and you thought it was over; not so. I came across an older video of ASIMO and this time he made it up the stairs but didn't quite make it downstairs in one piece. Honda's Humanoid Robot is currently an overprice piece of machinery and technology that continues to make the audiences laugh. ASIMO's job is to make us smile and ponder Honda's greatness but it fails again in the featured video. The Humanoid cost an estimated $1 million to manufacture in addition to thousands more for maintenance. Lets not forget the repair cost when ASIMO trips over thick-air, which doesn't exist.
ASIMO, which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, has an excellent track record versus the competition, but as technology progresses it seems to fall more and more. Honda boasts that ASIMO is a "glimpse into the future", which sorta makes sense when you consider people will eventually fall and slip on ice or something they didn't notice. We're just following in ASIMO's footsteps.
Consider this a SlashGear public service announcement if you will. Robots, no matter how adept they consider themselves, should always look where they're going when climbing stairs. Witness this embarrassing fall by Honda's lauded Asimo, which ironically happened while he was boasting about the in-feet sensors that allow him to balance.
Thankfully the Honda nurses were quick with the screens, as the crumpled humanoid lay twitching gently on the floor still chunnering about his ability to strut with the best of them. Perhaps it's time for Asimo to check into rehab? We can only assume that he's on so many drugs that he doesn't even realise he's fallen. Rumours that as the stricken robot was stretchered back to the workshop he was heard deliriously muttering "I'm still a star!" are so far unconfirmed.
You're nobody in automotive these days without a flashy R&D center in Silicon Valley, and Honda is stepping up its game as it cooks up new semi-autonomous driving, green engine, and smart car technologies. While it's not Honda's first footprint in the Valley - that happened back in 2000 - it's certainly the biggest play from the firm, with the new facility the company's largest research & development site outside of Japan. The fruits of the new center will eventually trickle down to production cars, but Honda gave us a sneak peek of what it's been working on.
Domestic robots have been attempted before, but a new company, Jibo, believes it has what it takes to deliver something more autonomous than a remote-control toy, but less complex and more affordable than something like ASIMO. Standing 11 inches high, the WiFi-connected robot can automatically snap family photos or video, work as a personal assistant with voice controlled messages and reminders, and read stories to kids.
Toyota is rolling out new versions of its assist robotics, updating its "bionic leg" and balance-gamification system for rehabilitation and testing them out in Japanese hospitals. The Walk Training Assist and Balance Training Assist hardware aim to help paralyzed or recovering patients to regain their mobility skills, and are now more responsive to different degrees of rehab.
Apple is casting its net wide and vague to grab health and sensor expertise in the build-up to the iWatch and iOS 8's Healthbook, one biosignals startup has claimed, as the "leaker" behind the biometric EarPod rumor earlier this month admits it was all fake. The Cupertino firm's ambitions for its healthcare platform extends considerably beyond a wearable device or two, it's suggested, with the iWatch team said to be planning "a full health and fitness services platform."