Honda Debuts Latest ASIMO Humanoid Robot, Machine Takeover Imminent


Everyone’s favorite soccer-playing, plastic-spaceman-wearing-a-backpack–style humanoid robot, ASIMO, is back and better than ever! Honda’s bizarre robot love child receives a rash of improvements this year, some of which are definitely concerning for any tinfoil hat–wearing readers concerned about an eventual robot takeover of society. The Honda robot’s other new features, however, might just have a practical use in automobiles. That’s more than we can say for ASIMO’s ability to “leap” a whopping 1.97 inches. 

ASIMO has been around for nearly 14 years, and that followed more than a decade of research Honda put into walking and humanoid robots. Over time, ASIMO—which stands for “Advanced Step (in) Innovative MObility”—has gained the ability to walk semi-naturally, carry things in his arms, turn, move quickly (by “leaping,” an action during which both feet leave the ground), answer questions, recognize postures and gestures, recognize faces, shake hands, and collaborate with a second ASIMO to accomplish a goal. This year, ASIMO takes the next step, so to speak, toward being a fully autonomous being, rather than a semi-human-controlled machine.


Honda has imbued ASIMO with what it calls “autonomous behavior control technology,” which is an ominous way of saying that the robot has a rudimentary decision-making engine. ASIMO can now better understand and react to his environment, as well as predict the motions of others and formulate a decision to, say, move out of someone’s way and return to his intended path afterward. Part of this ability comes from Honda’s installation of a form of intelligence, so that ASIMO now “evaluates inputs from multiple sensors that are equivalent to the visual, auditory, and tactile senses of a human being.”

While it might sound kind of eerie, ASIMO’s new capabilities bode well for the development of more advanced autonomous-driving aids. Critically, ASIMO’s ability to take in and react to his surroundings to avoid collisions is a rudimentary step toward a car doing the same thing. Fully autonomous cars are still a long way away, however, so ASIMO’s other new skill, the ability to home in on a single speaker in a group (even if they’re all talking at once) could preview a more imminent real-world automotive feature. In-car voice controls could, in essence, borrow the facial- and auditory-recognition tech behind ASIMO’s social skills to respond to multiple voice inputs, thus bringing into the digital age the age-old fight over which radio station is selected.

2015 Honda Fit EX Tested: Can It Fill Its Predecessor’s Enormous Shoes?
2014 Mercedes-Benz S550 Tested: Semi-Autonomously Tackling Highway 401
Honda Accord Research: Full Pricing, Specs, Reviews, Comparos, and More


But that’s all in the future—for now, Honda’s friendly robot remains just that: A friendly companion . . . albeit one that can now also walk on an uneven battlefield—er, uh, surface—perform surgical human experiments—we mean, “tasks with dexterity” using his fingered hands, and . . . Let’s just say that as soon as ASIMO is spotted behind the wheel (figure of speech, there is no wheel!) of one of Google’s autonomous cars, we’re running for the hills.

About Alexander Stoklosa