By on April 25, 2014

photo (23)

Last week’s New York Auto Show saw Honda make a robot – and not a car – the centerpiece of its press conference. Even though it had a very important new product to introduce, Honda instead chose to have ASIMO do a song and dance number, and then promptly depart in the middle, due to (an admittedly adorable) case of “stage fright”.

For years, many thought that ASIMO was a foray into the world of robotics for Honda. Japan’s demographic profile means that an unprecedented number of elderly people will populate the country by 2050, with an equal lack of young people to care for them. The need for innovations in elderly care is significant, and humanoid robots like ASIMO were envisioned as a possible solution. Aside from performing necessary tasks, the level of artificial intelligence is high enough that ASIMO can interact with a human –  according to Bloomberg, things like tracking multiple conversations are already part of ASIMO’s capabilities, and engineers are teaching the robot to distinguish between someone passing by, and someone who wants to stop and chat. These technologies might have automotive applications too

“Made of magnesium alloy covered with white plastic resin, Asimo is fitted with eight microphones, 14 power sensors that read the direction and amount of force, sonic-wave sensors that detect obstacles as far as three meters (almost 10 feet) away, and two stereo cameras that can sweep 120 degrees.

That information is processed by software that lets the robot negotiate obstacles and interpret postures, gestures and faces. Honda researchers are fine-tuning Asimo’s ability to distinguish between a person walking past and one who wants to stop and chat, said Kawagishi.

That’s the sort of judgment capability that can be applied to cars: Asimo’s image-processing technology can recognize whether a pedestrian is leaning forward to cross a street. Artificial intelligence software can judge quickly enough to react, said Yoshiharu Yamamoto, the president of Honda R&D.”

Stereo cameras, like Subaru’s EyeSight, are already in certain production cars, while Honda has experimented with them on autonomous vehicle prototypes. As Bloomberg notes, adapting these capabilities to the higher speeds of automobiles will be a challenge for Honda’s engineers. More interesting is the use of ASIMO’s stability systems (such as self-centering to prevent the robot from falling) on future motorcycles. But that’s a discussion best left for those acquainted with two wheels as well as two legs…

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26 Comments on “Honda’s Next Innovation In Driverless Cars Has Two Legs, Not Four Wheels...”

  • avatar

    For decades I’ve scoffed at the fear of a remilitarized, revanchist Japan. Hell, the few combat-age males they still produce are mostly hikikomori.

    But watching videos of this thing…. how many could they produce?

    Creepiest is that they never straighten their legs… like they’re always poised to pounce.

    • 0 avatar

      “Creepiest is that they never straighten their legs… like they’re always poised to pounce.”

      Or, something other than “pounce” – see this Conan O’Brien clip (@ the 2:55 mark).

  • avatar

    Uhhh… we’ve been looking at pictures of Honda’s Johnny #5 for how long now?

    Another couple of years, it’s going to be man versus machine.

    “It’s the end of the world as we know it…”

  • avatar

    Robot drivers are a wasted effort. It’s the “Actroid” “Gynoids” with built in fleshlights that Japan needs to concentrate on.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Honda please go back to making great, desirable, affordable, reliable cars like you used to and put you in the automotive map!

  • avatar

    > Aside from performing necessary tasks, the level of artificial intelligence is high enough that ASIMO can interact with a human – according to Bloomberg, things like tracking multiple conversations are already part of ASIMO’s capabilities

    Instead of comedically reporting these things as human-lite or anything from sci-fi, the media should recognize they’re just computers running programs that do some very simple/specific tasks reasonably well, not unlike Excel drawing graphs.

    One of Japan’s biggest mistakes in losing their momentum was putting far too much r&d resources into the private eng sector instead of actual science.

    As it turns out creating a functional robot or any sufficiently complex computer requires solving far hard problems than making marginally better walkmans until they sprout arms.

  • avatar

    Hey there have you heard about my robot friend?
    He’s metal and small and doesn’t judge me at all.
    He’s a cyberwired bundle of joy.
    My robot friend.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    The only robot that a US President has ever bowed to, or played soccer with.

  • avatar

    I’d happilly pay a hefty sum for a video clip of a crazed individual with a press pass to run up and punch the robot in its little Honda Robotic shield-thingy face, then flee the scene…

    Pictures snapping away. Reporters gasping, shocked in disbelief.

    Ahhh. It would be stupendous.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    ASIMO has a Samurai robot buddy, named Toshiro, standing by in case he gets attacked.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure what’s so exciting about Asimo in 2014 (it would have been exciting in 1994) when in 2014 we have Boston Dynamic’s Atlas.

    Distinguishing whether people want to stop for a chat or passer by? Oh please, a voice recognition on extra processing power would be sufficient and not that hard to do.

    Japanese makes great robots (Panasonic for example) just like the German, but please, ask your engineers to do something useful and profit making instead of polishing something like this year over year.

  • avatar

    This Honda Robot needs a beak grill on its head.

  • avatar

    This is all going to be “Robot and Frank”

  • avatar

    ‘Are you John Connor? , born February 28, 1985? It seems you have missed a payment on your 2021 Accord Hybrid coupe…’

  • avatar

    What will happen – there will come some start up, like Apple, most likely from Valley with a disruptive new technology which will make all these ASIMOs obsolete. New robots will be much more simpler, much smarter and much more relevant and practical. My advice to Honda – better stick to what you can do the best – engines with a lot of precision mechanical parts. Sony also thought they own the world until iPods/iPhones/iMacs and Samsung TVs and gadgets came along. Now Sony is selling Valio and is not even in fast growing business anymore.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Some of the comments talk of the Japanese with autonomous vehicles. The US also manufactures and business are using autonomous technology.

    Here’s a very interesting link to read.

    I’ve mentioned how the world is changing and rapidly.

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