Honda One-Ups Furby

Brent Plummer
by Brent Plummer
Honda Motor Co., Ltd. today announced the development of a new small,lightweight humanoid robot named ASIMO that employs Honda's new "i-WALK"technology to achieve an unprecedented human-like ability to walk.ASIMO'sunique capabilities were demonstrated at Honda's global headquarters inTokyotoday.

"Honda has taken up a new challenge in mobility," said Hiroyuki Yoshino,president and CEO of Honda Motor Co., Ltd. "With this development of atwo-legged humanoid robot that can walk, Honda wants to create a partner forpeople, a new kind of robot that functions positively in society."

Pretty soon, we'll all be buying Honda robotic butlers, and of course, they'll be pre-disposed to purchasing Honda motorcycles. They'll probably be faster than us! --MO

Honda's basic research and development in humanoid robotics began in1986 withthe goal of developing an autonomous walking robot that can be helpful tohumansas well as of practical use in society. In 1996, Honda's prototype robotP2made its debut, followed by the more advanced P3 in 1997.

ASIMO -- which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility -- is a furtherevolved version of P3 in an endearing people-friendly size that enables it toactually perform tasks within the realm of a human living environment. Honda'snew i-WALK technology adds a sophisticated "predicted movement control" featureto the earlier walking control technology of earlier Honda robots. As a result,ASIMO walks more smoothly, more flexibly, and more naturally, with instantresponse to sudden movements. Further, the range of movement of its arms hasbeen significantly increased and the robot can now be operated by a newportablecontroller for improved ease of operation.

At 120cm (just under 4 feet), ASIMO is significantly smaller thanHonda'searlier humanoid robots. The smaller size was chosen to allow it to operatefreely in a human living space and to make it people-friendly. Honda researchdetermined that a robot height ranging between 120cm and that of an averageadult is ideal for operating in a human environment. This size allows the robotto perform basic tasks such as operating light switches and doorknobs.

ASIMO Special Features

1. Small & Lightweight
Compared to P3, ASIMOB!Gs height was reduced from 160cm to 120cm (3.95ft.) andits weight was reduced from 130kg to 43kg (94.8 lbs.). A height of 120cm waschosen because it was considered the optimum to operate household switches,reach doorknobs in a human living space and for performing tasks at tables andbenches. ASIMO was made much more compact and lightweight by redesigning itsskeletal frame, reducing the frame's wall thickness and speciallydesigning thecontrol unit.

2. Advanced Walking Technology
Predicted Movement Control (for predicting the robot's next move andshiftingthe center of gravity accordingly) was combined with existing walking controlknow-how to create i-WALK (intelligent real-time flexible walking) technology,permitting smooth changes of direction. Additionally, because ASIMO walks likeahuman, with instant response to sudden movements, its walking is natural andvery stable.

3. Simple Operation
To improve the operation of the robot, a flexible walking control and buttonoperation (for gesticulations and hand movement) can be carried out by either aworkstation or from a handy portable controller.

4. Expanded Range of Movement
By designing ASIMO's shoulders 20 degrees higher than P3, elbow heightwasincreased to 15 degrees over horizontal, allowing a wider range of workcapability. Also, ASIMO's range of vertical arm movement has beenincreased to105 degrees, compared to P3B!Gs 90-degree range.

5. People-Friendly Design
In addition to its compact size, ASIMO features an attractive, people-friendlydesign.

ASIMO SpecificationsWeight: 43kg (94.8 lbs.)Height: 1,200mm (3.95 ft)Depth: 440mmWidth: 450mmWalking Speed:0 B!> 1.6km/h (approx. 1 mph)Operating Degrees of Freedom*Head: 2 degrees of freedomArm: 5 x 2 = 10 degrees of freedomHand: 1 x 2 = 2 degrees of freedomLeg: 6 x 2 = 12 degrees of freedomTOTAL: 26 degrees of freedomActuators: Servomotor + Harmonic Decelerator + Drive ECUController: Walking/Operation Control ECU, Wireless Transmission ECUSensors: Foot: 6-axis sensorTorso: Gyroscope & Deceleration SensorPower Source: 38.4V/10AH (Ni-MH)Operation: Work Station & Portable Controller
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Brent Plummer
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