Honda demos robot that can run and may one day care for you

"Robot, call 911." Humanoid robot, still in development, designed to be human caregiver

American Honda Motor is showing off a humanoid robot that can climb stairs, run 4 miles per hour and may someday help care for the elderly and disabled.

Asimo, a robot that has been more than 20 years in the making, is being demonstrated at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Part of the Japan Culture and Hyperculture festival, the live 15-minute demonstrations start today and run through Sunday, February 17.

"A lot of people think of Honda as just a car company or motorcycles, but Honda likes to think of itself as a mobility company," said Alicia Jones, a spokeswoman for the company. "We like to enhance people's mobility. The idea behind Asimo is that it would someday be a helper to people inside their homes, maybe the disabled or the elderly."

Jones noted that Honda began working on robots back in 1986, starting out by building a pair of walking legs. In 2000, the company's engineers unveiled an early version of Asimo, or Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility. Asimo made its debut in the US on February 14, 2002, when it rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Today, the robot is able to walk forward and backward, climb up and down stairs, and even run at speeds of nearly 4 miles per hour.

"The walking was the first hurdle, getting the robot to walk smoothly on a variety of different surfaces," said Jones. "Then the running was the next major advancement. People are curious about why we'd care about it being able to run, but we wanted it to respond quickly and move quickly. If a family's dog was running by, we'd want it to be able to get out of the way or run to the aid of the person it's helping."

The robot stands at 4 feet, 3 inches tall, putting it at level with someone in a seated position, noted Jones. It's also at a good height to open doors and windows. The short height also keeps Asimo from intimidating people. "It was designed to be cute and approachable and nonthreatening for a purpose," she added.

While Jones said she expects people to personalize Asimo and to think of it as part of their family, she said giving it the ability to carry on conversations with people is a long way off. No launch date has been set for the robot, but she expects it to hit the market within 10 years.

There's also no set price for the robot, but Jones said she expects it will initially cost about the same as a luxury automobile.

"It has an onboard computer, so the possibilities for it really are endless," said Jones. "You could tailor them for different functions. ... The artificial intelligence part of it is going to be a challenge. It has facial recognition and voice recognition, so you can program in a set of voice commands, and it would respond to you. But I do think having an actual conversation would probably be quite a ways off."

Yesterday, ABI Research released a study predicting that personal robots will become so popular that by the year 2015, the market for personal robotics components will reach US$12 billion.

What has driving the market? Consumers are looking to spend less time and effort doing routine chores, noted Philip Solis, an ABI analyst. He also noted that people looking for new entertainment venues, as well as companionship, are expected to spend heavily on personal robots.

Last fall, an artificial intelligence researcher predicted that robotics will make such dramatic advances in the coming years that humans will be marrying robots by the year 2050. Robots will become so human-like -- having intelligent conversations and displaying emotions -- that they'll be very much like a new race of people, according to David Levy, a British artificial intelligence researcher who authored the book Love and Sex With Robots.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?