I saw the coolest thing today. Ever heard of ASIMO? It stands for “Advanced Step In Innovative Mobility,” but what it really is is a four-foot-tall humanoid robot that looks a little like an astronaut. Honda tours the country with it (I want to call it “him,” but the handlers make specific efforts not to, so I’ll try not to as well) and they made a stop at Purdue University. Man, it was sweet.
It is amazing the advances evident in this little guy. He can walk at speeds of up to 1 m.ph., turn while walking, recognize specific faces, kick a soccer ball, climb and descend stairs, grab things, wave, and all sorts of other stuff. They put on a half-hour show, and demonstrated all of these things. It was just so neat.
Of course, it can be a little creepy to think about robots getting more and more capable of doing things. Honda’s goal with this is to eventually have ASIMO-like robots in homes helping people who need help – the elderly, the infirm, and so on. Even the height of ASIMO is because of that – his “eyes” are on-height with a person sitting in a chair or lying in a bed. It’s just such a neat concept.
Not everyone at the show shared my optimism. Most movies show that robots tend more towards evil than good. The Terminator, as you might recall, was so evil that he came back through time to kill a person. Now there’s dedication! Would that humans could focus on a task like that! Then there’s the robots in I, Robot – even with the “Three Laws Safe,” they got mean and nasty. And, as Tom said on Friday, “Even Johnny 5 had a laser!”
I’m not too worried about evil robots yet. Humans are more than evil enough for me right now. Robots still have a long way to go before approaching human levels of evilness.
Honda has said that by 2040, ASIMO-robots will be commonplace in homes. I think it’d be keen to have one, and I’d like to sign up now. I just hope that, by then, they’ll be able to clean bathrooms, because, man, do I hate doing that.