In 1986, Honda began the Humanoid Robot Research and Development Program. Keys concepts were “intelligence” and “mobility”. Honda started with the basic idea that the robot “should coexist and cooperate with human beings, by doing what a person cannot do, and by cultivating a new dimension in mobility to ultimately benefit society”. This provided a guideline for developing a new type of robot that would be used in daily life, rather than a robot purpose-built for special operations such as manufacturing.
Around one year was spent exclusively on planning what the robot should be. It had to be capable of moving through furnished rooms and going up and down stairs since it was designed for home use. At the same time, the design team decided that the robot should employ bipedal mobility technology to make it compatible with most types of terrain, including very rough surfaces. With these ideas in mind, Honda engineers began the development program, focusing the first phase of the program on the analysis of how a human uses legs and feet to walk.
Honda’s first step towards developing a humanoid robot began in 1986 with the E0 (Experimental Model 0), a pair of legs that were used to examine the principles of bipedal locomotion. The earliest prototype took almost 5 seconds to take each step, and could only walk in a straight line. They found that the absence of toes had no significant effect on walking, but that hips, knees, and the foot were all essential.
To increase walking speed, or to allow walking on uneven surfaces or slopes, faster walking would have to be realized.