Asimo: a Small Step for a Robot, a Giant Leap for Mankind
In his 1999 book The Age of Spiritual Machines, the famous inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil, expounded on the idea that humans will one day create machines much more intelligent than we are. Machines that, in a way, will be our collective offspring; but offspring that will be far more intelligent and advanced than we are.
Just a year later, in 2000, Honda introduced Asimo, a new version of its previous humanoid robots that signified a giant leap toward brining utility robots into our everyday lives. Since then, several updated Asimo models that have been unveiled; each more fascinating than the one before.
Yes, the future is here, reader. Personal robots are no longer the stuff of science fiction, and the robotics industry has cracked open the flood gates of a worldwide technological change that isn't yet apparent to many people, but is definitely here to stay.
Asimo's Spatial Perception
The Asimo is one of the most intelligent and independent robots on the market today. Unlike robot kits that teach kids and hobbyists the exact instructions that must be given to a robot, the Asimo has a great deal of flexible coding software that allows it to "think" for itself. For example, Asimo has advanced special recognition ability, and can easily maneuver around obstacles in a room without advanced human instruction.
This means that if you were sitting in the living room and asked Asimo to bring you a soft drink from the refrigerator, the robot could easily make its way around the house and perform the task without bumping into walls, and even walk up and down the stairs to get the job done. Such abilities to navigate the house and perform tasks could soon drastically increase the amount of free time parents will have to interact with their kids and devote to family time.
Asimo's Keen Senses
Another one of the Asimo features that stirs fascination among kids and adults alike is its ability to interact with humans. This robot can remember and recognize voices, call you by name, respond to simple requests and take verbal commands to perform tasks. Further, it can even recognize the voices of multiple people speaking at once, and can step aside for humans; qualities that make Asimo highly adept for performing tasks in social settings.
Asimo's most impressive feature is perhaps the most subtle one…
Human communication is very much non-verbal. Before they developed use of language, much of our communication is through body language and gestures. Asimo was designed with this humanness in mind, and can also communicate with body language changes and nodding. Though subtle, this ability makes the interaction with this robot much more natural and comfortable to humans.
Asimo's Hand Functionality
The feature that truly boosts Asimo's future prospects as an everyday utility robot is how advanced its hand function has become. This robot has human-like hands with five fingers. These have been embedded with a multitude of tactile and pressure sensors to allow Asimo to perform tasks like operating light switches, turning door handles, and pouring liquids. Though such tasks may seem simple at first, Asimo is one of the first robots to execute these functions so successfully, and in the same manner that a human would do.
Future improvements in sensory technologies and component size will give Asimo even grander capabilities. For example, this robot could eventually be able to use its hands to change children's diapers or make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This means that children born just a few decades from now could grow up side by side with robots like Asimo - we wonder, would they then view them as true members of the family?