The Rise and Fall of ASIMO

ASIMO, a 4 ft. (120 cm), 115 lb. (52 kg) Honda humanoid robot, is the world’s most advanced and recognizable.

Despite what many think, ASIMO does not pay homage to Science fiction writer Isaac Asimov but is actually an acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, and is the latest in a long line of robots built by HONDA to mimic human walking since 1986. Originally developed to assist people, the robot has been used almost exclusively by HONDA as a promotional tool in recent years. HONDA recently launched an impressive new interactive U.K. website intended for promoting its automotive technology using ASIMO.

With the debut of its new experimental model in late 2005 that not only walks and climbs stairs, but even runs at 3.7 mph (6 km/h) and like earlier models has several features such as face, sound, and other recognition abilities that enable it to interact with humans, it seemed that there was no stopping this little devil. But two recent, highly publicized events drew attention to some of the robot’s imperfections. ASIMO fell while trying to climb a staircase in front of a live crowd at a product demonstration in Japan in December 2006. A similar accident occurred on a different occasion as the robot descended a staircase.

HONDA has produced over twenty ASIMO robots since the first model was completed in October 2000. Each robot costs close to a million dollars to produce and is not intended for sale though a number of robots were hired out in recent years for about $150,000 a month. HONDA is committed to the continued development of ASIMO, which is currently not capable of operating autonomously in any real work environment. For now, the science fiction fantasy of a humanoid assistant cleaning the house and making dinner is still just that.