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Honda Advances Autonomous Humanoid Robot and Robot Arm

ASIMO opens water bottle (Honda Motor Co.)

ASIMO opens water bottle (Honda Motor Co.)

Robotics engineers at Honda Motor Company in Japan have developed more advanced capabilities for ASIMO, its humanoid robot, and released an early version of a task-performing robot arm. The experimental robot arm is designed to be remotely controlled for tasks in unstable places which are difficult for people to access.

The new version of the 10 year-old ASIMO project, says Honda, has advanced from an automatic to an autonomous machine, with a capability to determine its behavior in concert with its surroundings, such as movements of people. This capability evaluates data from sensors equivalent to the visual, auditory, and tactile senses of a human being, then estimates the situation of the surrounding environment and determines the corresponding behavior of the robot. This technology enables ASIMO to respond to the movement of people and the surrounding situations.

For example, ASIMO can stop or change its behavior to accommodate the intention of another party. Improved integration of data from visual and auditory sensors makes it possible for ASIMO to simultaneously recognize a face and voice, or recognize voices of multiple people who are speaking simultaneously, which is difficult even for a human being to accomplish. Honda says ASIMO can also predict the direction a person will walk in the next few seconds and adjust its own movement accordingly to prevent a collision.

Honda’s engineers have strengthened ASIMO’s legs, expanded the range of leg movement, and given the robot better control technology to change landing positions in the middle of a motion. These physical enhancements allow ASIMO to to walk, run — at speeds of up to 9 km per hour — run backward, hop on one leg or on two legs continuously. The improved motion and balance, say Honda, enable ASIMO to adapt to changing environments, such as walking over an uneven surface while maintaining a stable posture.

The upgrades include improvements to ASIMO’s multi-fingered hands, which include a tactile sensor on the palm and force sensors on the fingers. These additions make it possible to individually control the movements of each finger.

When combined with object recognition technology, and ASIMO’s visual and tactile senses, the hands on the robot can perform tasks with dexterity, such as picking up a glass bottle and twisting off the cap, or holding a soft paper cup to pour a liquid without squishing it. Moreover, ASIMO is now capable of making sign language expressions which require the complex movement of fingers. Some of ASIMO’s  physical capabilities are displayed in the following video:

Honda’s engineers have transferred some of the technologies and capabilities developed for ASIMO to an experimental model of a task-performing robot arm. The arm can move on a self-propelled base and is designed for use at disaster sites or other places too dangerous for people to work.

Among the ASIMO technologies adapted for the robot arm are those for control and stability capabilities. The control functions enable the robot arm to coordinate as many as 57 individual motors, which enable the arm to navigate through narrow spaces and avoid obstacles such as a complicated array of pipelines.

The robot arm’s first tasks will be to open and close valves on pipelines. The design of the arm includes a removable end-piece, however, which will make it possible to add other functions later on.

Read more: Robot Being Developed to Aid in Care of Elderly

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