Nov 102011

ASIMO Has Been Updated. And ASIMO is Cool, Yes.
But let’s be clear here – on Honda’s website and ASIMO’s Facebook profile, there’s something that’s kinda kept on the DL.

ASIMO is remotely controlled.

Still an achievement, to be sure – and props to all the engineers at Honda. But, for those audiences outside roboticists or tech dorks who write a lot about robots, I think the presentations are somewhat disingenuous. And that’s because what’s being sold or implied is the notion that ASIMO is doing ASIMO’s thing, i.e., “Asimo can now run and climb stairs and throw a left hook and talk trash.” But…

Pulling Strings from Behind the Curtain?
In reality, for actions not already pre-programed and choreographed, there’s a human behind the scenes with a joystick making most of ASIMO’s moves for him – and these movements are carried out through a (very) specifically arranged environment (including certain visual cues and other stuff). Perhaps this latest update will show some advancement in ASIMO’s autonomous abilities – because as cool as the physical stuff may be, we also want to see some AI/NBI thought and decision making happening behind that glossy black mask.

The recent movement enhancements are great, but on the software side of things, I don’t think there’s a lot here to be impressed by – even the listening to three different people talking isn’t all that cool if you can’t do anything with the info, yeah? For now ASIMO can do some limited thinking for himself, adjust balance for different environments, and has an onboard obstacle avoidance system – which is great.

My RoboRaptor from 6 years ago could avoid obstacles, too. Just saying.


So… as software catches up, we’ll see. Honda has now umbrella-ed their various robotics programs under the “Honda Robotics” name, so instead of insisting that ASIMO is basically a research platform for other technologies, perhaps they’ll be taking the actual robot making seriously.

Best Robot on the Planet? Well…
Is ASIMO the most advanced android humanoid robot in the world? In ways, yeah. But let’s hope Honda keeps pushing – I REALLY want ASIMO to be all he can be. If he doesn’t keep improving, becoming more adaptive and autonomous, I see many late nights with a little white robot waking from a terrible nightmare screaming:
“Help, Help! PETMAN is coming to get me!


PETMAN: Boston Dynamics Stumbles (HA!) into the Android Pole Position
All Your Jobs Are Belong to Us.
3D Printing, the Invigoration of Industrial Robotics, and China Gets a Bit Nervous
Space Racing: – National Governments Benched and/or Losing Their Scholarships
Autonomous(?) War Machines – UK Getting into the Mix as Well