are five years into the 21st century. Moat of us have been wondering
where the real robots are hiding. We have a plethora of robots populating
art, literature, and popular culture, and they have been existant for
thousands of years, only recently flooding their humanoid images across
our world. So far, the robots we do have in use on the planet do not
seem to resemble human beings in the least. We have electronic digtally
programmed "arms" that manufacture our automobiles. So I guess
it would be fitting that the most "human" looking and "acting"
robot is probably one no one has heard about. I know the quiet existence
of the Honda "Asimo"
(in honor of Issac Asimov, who wrote "I, Robot") because I
stumbled across an advertisement for him. I have seen thousands of advertisements
over the years for Sony's "robotic dog",
It's an "electronic best friend", sure to keep the kiddies
entertained. From the early days of "electronic toys", toymakers
have been coming up with digitally enhanced versions of the old Chatty
Cathy doll. In the 60s, a child needed a string to pull to make Cathy
"talk". By the late eighties the "Teddy Ruxpin"
toy bear told stories to children (when he worked). The Aibo dog is
not a toy, but it has always been marketed as one. Aibo, and more importantly,
the two legged "Asimo" are programmable and "learning"
representations of life. They are the first breed of "humanoid
robots". The ones which have been predicted for so long.
Honda Asimo Website is one of the most interesting sites I've visited.
As soon as I read the advertisement, which showed an eerily prescient
image of the little guy (The 2005 "model" Asimo is only four
foot tall, like a child.) surrounded by a Rockwellish portrait, just
"one of the family", I just had to see how long this thing
has been in the works. It is almost as if the company has been keeping
"wraps" on the little guy until he was "perfect".(Or
else perhaps they hadn't worked all the "bugs" out of him,
and only recently got him to behave, in a plot that certainly would
mirror a lot of the ones about "rampaging robots.")
Honda already manufactures
motorcycles, automobiles,( including the hybrid "Insight"),
all terrain vehicles, and lawn maintenance products. The company was
founded by Soichiro Honda, who was born on November 17, 1906, in Komyo
Village (now Tenryu City), Japan. The young Honda dropped out of elementary
school and got a job as a repair mechanic for the new automotive industry
in 1922. Prior to World War II, Honda dreamed of spinning off a new
car company off from the car manufacturing company for which he worked.
The Art Shokai company was involved in racing motorcycles. After the
war, in 1946, Honda began his own company. The first Honda product was
a modified motor driven bicycle using surplus auxiliary motors.
By the 60s, Honda
was selling not only motorcycles to the American public, but inexpensive
automobiles as well. The first Honda "Civic" debuted in 1972,
and is widely credited for beginning the long process of dismantling
the superiority and eventually the reputation of the "big three"
American car makers, as thousands of Americans fell head over heels
for the miniature automobile that got over 40 miles to the gallon in
the middle of the nation's first large "oil shortage," which
caused gas prices to soar, when gas was available.
out, and today their product mix is well known and repected in every
corner of the world.
In 1986, Honda
really started branching out, and began examining the principles of
two legged locomotion. The prototype E0 or "experimental model
0" humanoid was barely a pair of legs joined at the top. But unlike
earlier real robots, which usually got about on tracks or wheels, Honda,
a company known for manufacturing vehicles that used wheels. was opting
for a completely different approach when it came to robotics. Honda
succeeded, with first the E0, and throughout the end of the 80s and
well into the 90s, as the world slept and didn't pay too much attention,
the E1 through E6, which resembled "toasters on legs" and
then the P1 and P2, which added a "head" and torso, finally
getting to the point in the history of humankind when the "literary"
robot and the robot of films and television shows merged with the "real"
robots being invented by the robotics industry. The P3, which was introduced
in 2000, right in time for Millennium Madness, resembles the future
Asimo with it's "space helmet" head and clean white "industrial
ergonomic" shape. Honda is now "offering" the first of
the "Asimov's" the latest entry into their robotic line, and
the advertisement I saw this month (February 2005) was on the inner
cover of Entertainment Weekly, a rather well read entertainment magazine.
The Asimo is ready
to join your household. What can he do? We'll let the buyer decide,
and Caveat Emptor to humankind in the process. He hasn't been given
a retail price at the time of this writing, and this writer didn't attend
the consumer electronics show this year, where he might have made an
"appearance". The latest version of the Honda robot was "announced"
in December 2004.
So far, he seems
to be "on the brink" of being offered "for sale"
to the public, but I can't find a "shopping cart" feature
on the Asimo website. I don't know how long his batteries last, or if
he has a "governor chip" that prevents him from going on a
rampage and killing everyone in his adopted "family". I amd
sure that the Honda Company must have programmed Asimov's "three
laws of robotics" into the little guy. After all, he's named for
the late writer, whose "I, Robot" stories revolved around
the idea that robots should have rules which prevent them from trying
to take over the planet.
soon as these things start showing up at the local Wal-Mart, human history
will have changed again. The "Asimo" looks just like the cute
MTV logo beloved by most of America since the time when Honda really
began serious research of the program of "two legged locomotion."
He looks safe, clean, and efficient. But the mythology has always maintained,
since the very beginning, that when man makes robot in his own image,
eventually the robot race will rebel, enslaving man, and eventually
causing the extermination of his race. By then the robots will know
how to repair themselves, it is hoped.
and the world slept through the early development and research into
the Honda Android. Humankind has always been ready to embrace the idea
of the robot. Now that the Asimo has been "properly introduced"
it will take a few years for complete penetration into the homes of
the public. I predict the "personal robot" will be very expensive
at first, and will probably include a camera and text messaging feature.
He'll be smarter than most of his owners, and in time (when biological
cloning techniques are integrated with bionics to simulate real skin
and hair) the "sex slave" is sure to "come", scantily
clad and in perpetual heat, into the household. Robots are the future
of Humanity! They are our friends. They will take our mundane existences
from us and free us to be more bored than we have been in millenia past.
ASIMO MOVIE Page.
See the little guy in action. He walks! He runs! He shakes hands! He
avoids obstacles! Quick downloads are available on the official Honda
Websites used in
the research and construction of this page include the History
of the Honda Company, from the official Honda website, and the Honda
Humanoid Robot Asimo website, which includes the movies, and where
I got all the Asimo images.