ASIMO-The Humanoid Robot 

ASIMO:

  • It’s an acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility.
  • It is a humanoid robot designed and developed by Honda. 
  • It was introduced on 21 October 2000, and was designed to be a multi-functional mobile assistant. 
  • With aspirations of helping those who lack full mobility, ASIMO is frequently used in demonstrations across the world to encourage the study of science and mathematics.              

History:

  • 1986 – Static walking: The first robot Honda built was called EO. EO walked very slowly, taking sometimes 20 seconds to complete a single step. This was because EO did what was called “static walking.” In static walking, after the robot begins moving one foot forward, it has to wait until it has its weight balanced on that foot before it begins to move the other foot forward. Humans don’t walk that way, so the research continued. 
  • 1987 – Dynamic walking: By now engineers had developed a method for “dynamic walking,” which is much more human-like. With this walking technology, the robot (now called prototype E1, soon followed by E2 and E3 as research progressed) leaned into the next step, shifting its weight and moving the other foot forward to catch itself so that rather than falling forward, it walked forward.
  • 1991 – Walking like a pro: In prototypes E4, E5 and E6, Honda’s engineers perfected the walking mechanism to the point where the robot could easily walk on an incline, upstairs and on uneven terrain. Because truly walking as a human actually requires the use of the body, arms and head, engineers had to move on to the next step and add the rest of the body.
  • 1993 – A more human-looking robot: With a body, arms, hands and a head, the next generation of prototypes (P1, P2 and P3) looked more like a “humanoid.” P1, however, was a looming 6 feet 2 inches (188 cm) tall and weighed 386 pounds (175 kg). P2 was scaled down slightly in height, but weighed an even heavier 463 pounds (210 kg). However, it could walk very well on uneven surfaces, inclines, and could even grasp objects and push carts. P2 could even maintain its balance when pushed. Finally, P3 was built at a more comfortable (and less frightening) 5 feet 2 inches (157 cm) tall. Weighing 287 pounds (130 kg), P3 could walk faster and more smoothly than its predecessors.
  • 1997 – ASIMO: More improvements were made to the walking system, allowing ASIMO to walk gracefully and easily in almost any environment. Sophisticated hip joints allowed ASIMO to turn smoothly, something other robots have to stop and shuffle in order to do. In thinking about how ASIMO was to be used, the engineers made the decision to further reduce ASIMO’s size to 4 feet (122 cm) so that not only would it not be intimidating to people who were seated (or standing, for that matter), it would actually be at eye level. This height also made it possible for ASIMO to work at table height or at a computer, reach light switches and turn door knobs. ASIMO’s very strong but lightweight magnesium-alloy body, covered in plastic “skin,” weighed in at only 115 pounds (52 kg). Technology called “predicted movement control” allowed ASIMO to predict its next movement automatically and shift its weight to make a turn. ASIMO’s stride could also be adjusted in real time to make it walk faster or slower. P2 and P3 had to use programmed walking patterns.
  • 2005 – Better, Faster, and Stronger: Engineers further refined ASIMO’s motion system, boosting its walking speed from 2.5 to 2.7 kilometers per hour and giving ASIMO the ability to run at speeds up to 6 kilometers per hour. Honda increased ASIMO’s height to 4 feet 3 inches (130 centimeters), and the robot put on a little weight, tipping the scales at 119 pounds. The engineers switched ASIMO’s power supply to a lithium battery that doubles the amount of time it can operate before recharging. They also implemented the IC Communication card technology that helps ASIMO interact with people. New sensors allowed ASIMO to move in sync with people while holding hands.
  • 2007- Functionality: Functionality was added that would allow two or more ASIMO robots to be connected together and work collaboratively. By this point ASIMO could work out whether to move past an oncoming person or obstacle, or let it pass. The robot could also take itself off to a charger when its battery began to run low. It was this version of the ASIMO that famously conducted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
  • 2011- New Version: The most recent version of ASIMO was released in 2011. It boasted a host of sensors, with a number devoted to mimicking certain human senses, plus it could balance better than previous incarnations and, for the first time, had dexterous hands. Touch sensors throughout the hand and flexible fingers meant it could carry out tasks like opening bottles and pouring liquid.

Development Process:

  • Honda worked to develop an advanced humanoid robot began in 1986, when Honda established a research center focused on fundamental technologies, including humanoid robotics.
  • Honda engineers began researching how humans walk, using the human skeleton for reference in locating the leg joints, the heel joint and the position of the toes, studying movement and range of motion on flat ground as well as stairs. In 1986, E0 (“E” represents “Experimental” model), the first bi-pedal (two-legged) robot was made to walk. E0, and subsequent “E” series robots developed from 1987-92 were used by Honda engineers to establish stable walking technology, including steps and sloped surfaces.
  • In 1993, Honda began developing “Prototype” models (“P” series), attaching the legs to a torso with arms that could perform basis tasks. P2, the second prototype model, debuted in December 1996, using wireless techniques making it the first self-regulating, two-legged walking robot. P2 weighed 463 pounds with a height of six feet tall. In September 1997, P3 was introduced as the first completely independent bi-pedal humanoid walking robot, standing five feet, four inches tall and weighing 287 pounds.

Creation of ASIMO:

  • Honda engineers were challenged to apply the company’s traditional focus on the customer to create something that could function in an actual human living environment. It was determined a robot should be easy to operate and small in size, enabling it to help people, for instance, to look eye to eye with someone sitting in a chair.
  • Introduced to the world in November 2000, ASIMO’s height of four feet is ideal because its eyes are located at the same level as the eyes of a seated adult. The size also allows ASIMO to operate light switches, door knobs, work at tables and other useful activities. ASIMO’s weight of 115 pounds is actually a 20% lower volume-to-weight ratio than its predecessor P3. 
  • ASIMO’s unique attributes include Honda’s intelligent, real-time, flexible walking “i-WALK” technology which enables the robot to walk and turn smoothly and continuously. Earlier robots had to stop in order to make sharp turns. The new system also gives ASIMO greater stability in response to sudden movements.
  • Through “predicted movement control” ASIMO can predict its next movement in real time and shift its center of gravity in anticipation of a turn. Further, ASIMO’s stride can be adjusted real time, allowing it to walk faster or slower without requiring stored walking patterns as with previous robots, including P2 and P3. 
  • Finally, ASIMO can be controlled by a portable controller – resembling a typical video game controller – whereas P3 was controlled only from a workstation. This permits more direct and flexible operation of ASIMO.

ASIMO was programmed to:

  • Recognize a face and a voice simultaneously. 
  • Recognize the voices of multiple people who are talking at the same time. 
  • Predict the direction a person will walk within the next few seconds, helping it to avoid a collision. 
  • Change its behavior to accommodate the intention of people with whom it’s interacting. 
  • Run forward and backward, and hop on one or two legs continuously. 
  • In addition, Honda has developed a highly functional compact multi-fingered hand, which enables ASIMO to perform such tasks as picking up a glass bottle and twisting off the cap, and holding a soft paper cup to pour a liquid without squishing it. ASIMO can even make sign language expressions that require complex finger movement.
  • With the capability to navigate and operate in our world, Honda’s intention is that ASIMO will be able to perform tasks to assist people who are lacking in full mobility. It is hoped ASIMO will serve as another set of eyes, ears, hands and legs for people in need, and will provide them with a new sense of independence in their everyday lives.

Working:

  • ASIMO is the culmination of two decades of humanoid robotics research by Honda engineers. 
  • It can run, walk on uneven slopes and surfaces, turn smoothly, climb stairs, and reach for and grasp objects. 
  • It can also comprehend and respond to simple voice commands. 
  • It has the ability to recognize the face of a select group of individuals. 
  • Using its camera eyes, ASIMO can map its environment and register stationary objects.
  • It can also avoid moving obstacles as it moves through its environment. 

ASIMO’s Senses:

  • In robotics, vision is a captured image that is interpreted based on programmed templates. In a manufacturing environment, where robotic arms build cars or robots inspect the microscopic connections on semiconductor chips, you’re dealing with a controlled environment. The lighting is always the same, the angle is always the same, and there are a limited number of things to look at and understand. In the real (and unstructured) world, however, the number of things to look at and understand increases greatly.
  • A humanoid robot that must navigate through homes, buildings, or outdoors while performing jobs must be able to make sense of the many objects it “sees.” Shadows, odd angles and movement must be understandable. For example, to walk on its own into an unknown area, a robot would have to detect and recognize objects in real time, selecting features such as color, shape and edges to compare to a database of objects or environments it knows about. There can be thousands of objects in the robot’s “memory.”
  •  ASIMO’s vision system consists of two basic video cameras for eyes, located in its head. ASIMO uses stereoscopic vision and a proprietary vision algorithm that lets it see, recognize, and avoid running into objects even if their orientation and lighting are not the same as those in its memory database. These cameras can detect multiple objects, determine distance, perceive motion, recognize programmed faces and even interpret hand motions. For example, when you hold your hand up to ASIMO in a “stop” position, ASIMO stops. The facial recognition feature allows ASIMO to greet “familiar” people.
  • ASIMO can recognize objects in motion by interpreting the images captured by the cameras in its head. It can assess a moving object’s distance and direction, which allows ASIMO to follow a person, stop its own progress to allow a moving object to cross its path, or greet you as you approach.
  • The cameras also relay what ASIMO sees to ASIMO’s controller. That way, if you’re controlling ASIMO from a PC, you can see what ASIMO sees.
  • In addition to the cameras in its head, ASIMO has several sensors that help it maneuver through environments and interact with objects and people. Floor surface sensors allow ASIMO to detect objects and changes in the floor. Ultrasonic sensors help orient ASIMO by detecting surrounding objects. The sensors help ASIMO resolve discrepancies between the internal map of the area preprogrammed in its memory and the actual environment.
  • ASIMO even has a sense of touch, in a way. The force sensors in ASIMO’s wrists allow ASIMO to judge how much force to use when picking up a tray, handing you a file or shaking your hand. ASIMO can integrate information gathered by its cameras and force sensors to move in sync with a person while holding hands. When pushing a cart, ASIMO’s force sensors help the robot to adjust the amount of force needed to push the cart (for example, ASIMO can push a cart with more force if the sensors detect an incline).
  • Another way ASIMO can sense the environment is through the use of IC Communication cards. IC cards use infrared signals to receive and transmit information. If you hold an IC card with your information encoded on it, ASIMO can detect your presence even if you aren’t within the line of sight of its cameras. These cards enhance ASIMO’s ability to interact with others. For example, if you were to visit Honda’s office and receive an IC card as a visitor pass, ASIMO could greet you and direct you to the right room after electronically reading the information encoded on your card.


Future:

  • In the future, ASIMO may serve as another set of eyes, ears, hands and legs for all kinds of people in need. 
  • Someday ASIMO might help with important tasks like assisting the elderly or a person confined to a bed or a wheelchair. 
  • ASIMO might also perform certain tasks that are dangerous to humans, such as fighting fires or cleaning up toxic spills.

      Thanks for reading. Post your reviews in comments. 

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