ROBODEX - Honda shows its most realistic humanoid robot yet

The robot, named Asimo for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, is a development of the Japanese company's P3 robot that was first produced in 1997. The new system provides for a much more natural-looking walk and, Honda officials said, allows the robot to react more quickly to sudden movements.

During a demonstration at Robodex which left the audience impressed, the Asimo robot was able to walk down a set of stairs with ease and exhibited none of the jerky and unsure movements of the company's previous robots.

Compared to the P3 and its predecessor the P2, the new robot is also smaller. Honda said its research showed people favored humanoid robots of between 120 centimetres and average human height. As a result, Asimo is shorter than Honda's earlier 180-centimetre-tall P2 robot and the 160-centimetre P3 model.

The smaller size makes Asimo look less threatening but still allows it to perform tasks such as opening doors and operating light switches, Honda officials said. Honda's interest in developing humanoid robots lies in their potential future applications in society and as aids to people, they added.

Honda has also made Asimo much lighter than its P3 predecessor, it weighs in at 43 kilograms against the P3's 130 kilograms. This was accomplished by reducing the frame of the robot, which had the by-product of adding to its user-friendliness, and making its body thinner. Asimo is 44 centimeters deep and 45 centimetres wide -- significantly thinner that the P3 which was 76 centimetres deep and 60 centimetres wide.

The new Honda robot was unveiled at the same time as Sony showed off its SDR, or Sony Dream Robot, to the Japanese public for the first time. Premiered to the press earlier this week, the SDR is also in humanoid form although at 50 centimetres it is less than half the size of Honda's Asimo. Sony developed the SDR unit as part of its ongoing research into robot technology -- a business area the company made commercial last year with the release of Aibo, the world's first entertainment robot dog.

English-language information on the company's previous robots can be found at http://world.honda.com/robot/ .

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Martyn Williams

PC World

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