Do Androids Get Thirsty?

Gary S. Vasilash

Some of you may remember the good old days of automation, when proponents of robotics for industrial use explained that the units were beneficial because they never got tired, they never called in sick, and they never took breaks.

This picture of the current generation of Honda’s ASIMO seems to indicate that in the future, that last point—the one about not taking breaks—may go by the wayside:

Latest Version of ASIMO Makes North American Debut in New York

Yes, that’s ASMIO pouring itself a beverage from a thermos.

ASIMO—Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility—is now 14 years old. Or at least there have been ASIMOs for 14 years.

In the latest version, the hands have 13 degrees of freedom and force sensors. This allows the unit to perform intricate and precise tasks while applying the appropriate amount of force. Presumably some of these tasks could involve assembly, as well as getting a delicious drink.

The pint-size android (it is 4-ft, 10-in. tall and weighs 110 lb.) has enhanced lower stability so that it can climb and run better than it previously had been able to. It can also hop on one leg, which is a skill that humans rarely have to use.

Although this might seem to be a diversion from what Honda engineers really ought to be working on, it turns out that some of the developments related to ASIMO have had application to Honda cars and motorcycles: the vehicle stability assist (VSA) systems are predicated on ASMIO research.

Presumably if you can teach a robot to hop on one leg, you can help modulate yaw when carving corners in a Civic.