Honda announces new robot

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Today in Japan Honda debuted a new ASIMO humanoid robot...
...which features the ability to pursue key tasks in a real-life environment such as an office and an advanced level of physical capabilities. Compared to the previous model, the new ASIMO achieves the enhanced ability to act in sync with people – for example, walking with a person while holding hands. A new function to carry objects using a cart was also added. Further, the development of a “total control system” enables ASIMO to automatically perform the tasks of a receptionist or information guide and carry out delivery service. In addition, the running capability is dramatically improved, with ASIMO now capable of running at a speed of 6km/hour and of running in a circular pattern.

According to the press release, "delivery service" includes tasks as precise as serving cups of tea on a tray, thanks to the coordinated use of its "eye camera" and the "kinesthetic sensor" on its wrists.

Through proactive control of ASIMO’s posture while both feet are off the ground, the running speed was doubled from the previous 3km/hour to 6km/hour. One particularly interesting innovation is the ASIMO's ability to run almost as fast in a circle; the robot actually shifts its center of gravity inward to according to the amount of centrifugal force.

For me, these giant steps in robotic technology are as alarming as they are exciting. Notice the introduction over at Digital World Tokyo:
Honda’s smug ASIMO robot is incredibly annoying — here in Japan it’s hard to get through a single day without being subjected to his capering antics on TV and in magazines. Which makes it all the more disturbing that Honda has bestowed the bungling ‘bot with even greater powers. (emphasis mine)

From America, I have heard of this robot, but only from an episode of some tech shows from time to time. In other words, it's perceived here in the U.S. as a kind of "far off" technology (in my circles, at least). It's kind of scary that in Japan they are being bombarded with images of this thing. Particularly if the images are of "capering antics." Is Honda getting everyone used to the "personality" of this robot? Seems like some kind of preemptive marketing to make the integration of robots into our daily lives a little easier to swallow. They've certainly got the controversy in mind if they named the machine ASIMO.

I'm anxious to see where this ends up...

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