Companies are designing robots that can kick, dance and even run better than some humans. What's next?
If Honda -- and the dozens of companies who are racing to build robots with the most human-like capabilities -- has any say, these machines will soon replace humans for many tasks. And the improvements are happening at a near-exponential rate.
In New York this week, the Japanese company showcased their latest improvements to "Asimo," Honda's signature humanoid robot. For the first time in North America, the soft-spoken robot showed off it's sensitivity; distinguished between a coffee mug and a soft paper cup, based on input sensors in the finger tips. The robot also showcased it's hopping and soccer capabilities, and showed off it's top running speed -- 5.5 miles per hour.
Boston Marathon qualifiers running at that speed would have to be older than 75, but that's the ideal age for Honda; Asimo is designed with the elderly in mind.
“ASIMO is at the right height to be eye-level to someone confined to a bed or a wheelchair,” Jeffrey Smith, Honda Assistant VP of North American Corporate Affairs, said.
“In the future, a person confined to a bed or a wheelchair might have a monitor and be seeing what ASIMO is seeing. So someone knocks on the door and you’d ask ASIMO to see who is at the door. You’d be able to see who it is on the monitor (and) let them in."
Honda says its “dream” is that one day, humanoid robots will be able to assist and care for the elderly, help perform chores around the house, and provide assistance to people in public places such as airports and train stations, according to Wired.
Granted, Asimo doesn't have the battery power (yet) to finish the full marathon. But this technology editor is now taking bets on which race will let the first robot enter as an official pacer.
Just a few years ago Honda debuted their humanoid robot at the Consumer Electronics Show, and at that point Asmio didn't have as much rhythm, yet it still impressed the crowd.
But now the dexterous robot has even smoother moves. Honda says Asimo has limitless possibilities, but that they are still years from a time when a humanoid robot could maneuver alone on a city street.
"ASIMO may not know whether someone is approaching it or just trying to pass. If we are able to have ASIMO react to any kind of situation, (but) it will take a very long time," Satoshi Shigemi, Honda Senior Chief Executive Engineer and ASIMO Project Leader, said.
"However, if we can narrow down the robot’s roles, that can be done in several years. For example, if we can narrow down the robot’s functions to a receptionist or information guide, we can identify what people will expect of the robot.”
Check out the refined Asimo below.
But having a robot care for Gramma may still creep her out. Especially if she watches this video first.
Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.