ASIMO Robot (Roberto Marquino: read his blog at http://robertomarquino.blogspot.com )

Standing at only four-feet so as to appear 'child-like' and not intimidate [1], the Honda Asimo Robot was inspired by some of the original anime--old AstroBoy comics from the 1950's. Asimo makes the rounds: ringing the opening bell at the stock market in New York in 2001, an appearance at the 2002 Robodex exhibition in Yokohama [2]. Honda has actually loaned him out to various museums around Japan as a kind of PR rep [3].

ASIMO is bipedal (source: AP)Asimo can walk up and down stairs and recognize faces and voices. Asimo represents a bold leap forward in terms of bipedal (walking on two legs) and anthropomorphic (human-like) robotics. Most industrially produced robots move on tank treads, because this is the most efficient form of locomotion. Creating a bipedal robot requires complex computer algorithms to adjust for balance, especially activities like climbing stairs [3].

Time for a little lesson in robotics basics. Robot operation requires mapping kinematics (basically, joint movement, as of a robotic arm) from Cartesian space (objective reality) into joint-space (space where the arm's 'perspective' is favored), and vice-versa. This can be tricky, because the angle at which a remote camera (in a webcam, for example) presents a situation may be skewed from reality. The range of motion of a robot is described as degrees of freedom. Problems in passing between these two kinds of mathematical spaces include redundancies, or positions that look the same in the joint-space, and singularities, or limits to degrees of freedom [4].


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