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12/13/2005
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Honda Turns Asimo Robot Into Speedy Errand Assistant

Asimo can now speed across the floor at almost 4 miles per hour, carry objects, and automatically perform the tasks of a receptionist, information guide, or delivery person.

Honda has dipped into its toolbox to upgrade its Asimo robot to run errands faster and interact more effectively with people.

Asimo, the walking humanoid robot that danced with children on BBC's Blue Peter children's show, can now hold hands, carry objects and automatically perform the tasks of a receptionist, information guide, or delivery person.

The improved Asimo, unveiled Tuesday, can also run twice as fast as its previous incarnation, covering 3.72 miles per hour.

Asimo can already recognize surrounding environments with visual sensors, a floor surface sensor, an ultrasonic senor, an eye camera, a force (kinesthetic) sensor and a new IC Tele-interaction Communication Card. The force sensor allows the ASIMO to hold hands and synchronize movements with people.

The communication card has an optical communication function so Asimo can locate and identify the person wearing the card. The kinesthetic senor, on Asimo's wrists, allows the robot to push a cart, detect obstructions and slow down or change directions accordingly.

Asimo stands just over four feet tall and weights almost 120 pounds. It can turn on the spot, run in a circle, handle corners while running, greet passersby, and recognize names and languages.

The robot displays new technological achievements in posture control, image and voice recognition, collision anticipation and avoidance. Honda plans to apply the technologies to car safety and other developments.

The improvements are also part of a larger plan to build a truly useful robot with high-level intelligence and physical capabilities. Honda plans to continue research, shifting focus to intelligence capabilities until Asimo can make judgments based on various situations.

Honda will begin operating the new Asimo in spring 2006 at the Honda Wako Building in Japan. The new Asimo will eventually be leased out.

Fujitsu has a robot named enon, which can perform several of the same functions as Asimo. Enon lacks feet, legs and the human shape that makes ASIMO look somewhat like a child in a spacesuit.

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