Honda’s new Asimo robot can run, jump and sign

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BBC | July 16th, 2014

Honda's Asimo robot has grown up – with its latest upgrade giving it enhanced intelligence, added dexterity and the ability to run 5.6mph (9km/h).

The first Asimo was created in 2000, and is seen as one of the leading attempts at creating a humanoid.

The latest version is able to change its actions depending on what happens around it – such as moving out of a person's way.

The 4ft (130cm)-tall robot is also able to do complex sign language.

Asimo – which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility – is eventually intended to help people in various situations of need, such as the elderly, or those in disaster zones. It can not yet be bought in shops.

Parts of the technology developed by Honda for the Asimo project have been used to help clean-up efforts at the stricken Japanese nuclear plant Fukushima.

But in the humanoid robot, upgrades have focused on making Asimo better understand the world around itself.

The Jibo robot is less human than Asimo, but closer to hitting the market

The new artificial intelligence unveiled in Belgium on Wednesday included the ability to be able to distinguish different voices in a room, even when multiple people are talking at the same time.

But some question the viability of Honda's plans, and whether we are likely to see humanoid robots in our lives any time soon.

"It's great to see the results of research in human-robot interaction that Honda is doing, but the reality is that Asimo needs to be a lot cheaper before it's a household robot," said Andra Keay, managing director of Silicon Valley Robotics and a columnist for Robohub.

Instead, she thinks ideas such as Jibo – a lamp-like assistant for helping around the house – will hit the market sooner.

"Perhaps the direction that Jibo has taken is the most appropriate one right now – minimum viable robot product to get maximal learning from human interaction.

"We're entering a rich age for deep machine learning from humans."