Not So Great Plans For A Great Robot
Asimo, Honda Motor's incredible humanoid robot, can walk, climb stairs, turn around, switch lights on and off, move objects, open and close doors and the latest version even run. It's the result of almost 20 years of dedication and focus by the robotics wizards at Honda. Given all that, you might guess that Honda has some wonderful game plan for Asimo's future. . .
If they do, then they aren't sharing their future vision with the rest of the world. In the past few years we've seen Asimo show up in television commercials, play with children at regional auto sales events, and perform at trade shows and exhibits. It's been a fantastic symbol of Honda's advanced technology and skills, but with very little indication of how it might be eventually put to practical use.
The performance of the latest Asimo is really startling. For example, take a look at this video of Asimo running. Not only can it run, it can run around corners!
So, we were really anticipating some insight or clues about Asimo'f future from Honda when they introduced the latest version of Asimo to the press this Tuesday. But, from the press reports of the unveiling, Honda seems to have a very menial role in store for their great creation.
Here are some brief quotes from one of the early press reports-
"Asimo runs. Asimo serves tea. Asimo pushes a cart around."
"... becoming a full-fledged office assistant..."
"... If visitors ask for a drink, Asimo brings it to their table."
"... push a cart around ..."
Did they really invest all that time, money, and know-how, just to create a mechanical replacement for the traditional Japanese office lady (OL)? Since today's Japanese women are much more Westernized, independent and career oriented than the previous generation, that may indeed be the problem that Honda has been trying to solve.
Supporting that train of thought, Honda President Takeo Fukui was quoted as stating, "Our ultimate goal is to enable it to serve as your alter ego, doing your tasks while you are away."
Honda Asimo Press Release - Includes photos
Asimo Running Video - It not only runs, it runs around corners.
Asimo Article (Dec. 14, 2005) - The Japan Times
Asimo Dancing With Kids - Regional Honda car sales event in Japan