Overall it’s a good interview, and I especially agree with him when it comes to military robots. However I do take issue with a few of Prof. Sharkey’s statements. The first being that ASIMO (and its ancestors) were the first walking bipedal robots. This isn’t true; Prof. Ichiro Kato (Waseda University) is the father of bipedal robots, having done pioneering work in the field in the 1970s, prior to Honda beginning research. When Honda first revealed their humanoid robot program, it largely overshadowed Prof. Kato’s years of work, which was no doubt the cause of great disappointment and bitterness.
He also says that the stairs we see ASIMO climb have to be perfect, and that Honda brings their own set of stairs with them wherever they do demonstrations. This is true of live demonstrations, but if in fact ASIMO can only walk up those specific stairs, why do we see it walking up and down real stairs in commercials (see videos here and here). You can even see a kid slip and fall on them in the first video. And as for robots that can get up from a prone position, of course AIST has developed full-sized humanoids that can stand back up after being pushed over (the HRP-2P is considered the world’s first full-sized humanoid capable of this feat, which it did back in 2002). Granted, I haven’t seen ASIMO do this (perhaps that is what he meant). ASIMO lacks the abdominal/dorsal flexibility of the HRP-2P and HRP-2 Promet which makes sitting up much easier.
You can see an excerpt of Prof. Sharkey’s presentation of PAL Technology’s REEM-B here, and if you’re interested in his work regarding the ethics of robot nannies, you can read a thought-provoking paper here (.PDF).