This weekend Honda gave a public demonstration of the latest version of ASIMO along with their UNI-CUB personal mobility vehicle. In 2011 Honda unveiled the third version of their humanoid robot, All-new ASIMO, which is able to perform semi-autonomously. This version is approximately 6 kg lighter than the previous model and has individually-actuated fingers.
The demonstration didn’t include anything new from last year’s reveal, but the audience ate it up. All-new ASIMO ran at its top speed of 9 kph, hopped on one leg, kicked a ball, and so on. It’s worth pointing out that the thermos and cup routine are identical, suggesting All-new ASIMO hasn’t been trained to handle other objects. Certainly a lot of time goes into scripting these demos, and they have to be air-tight so as not to lose face, but tweaking it here and there to show the robot’s adaptability wouldn’t hurt. Meanwhile, Honda is still demonstrating the earlier model in the United States and abroad.
The UNI-CUB, which was announced in May of this year, is the latest prototype in a line of vehicles from the company’s robotics R & D center. It’s a bit bulkier compared to the earlier U3-X, sporting an added wheel at the back for support (which somewhat contradicts the whole “unicycle” vibe they appear to be after). But the seat and ride look comfortable, which is the main thing. To be honest, I don’t think it beats the Toyota i-REAL, which was unveiled in 2007. The i-REAL is simply sexier: it has better styling and is capable of faster speeds, and you sit in it as you would a comfy chair (unlike the UNI-CUB, which seats like a stool).
The UNI-CUB is steered by shifting your body, and can travel at up to 6 kph. That speed, and its size, make it ideal for carrying on conversations with people walking next to you. A two-hour charge will top up the battery, which has a range of about 6 km. It can handle slopes up to 5 degrees, but is intended for indoors use only. Commercialization is still up in the air, but a pair of UNI-CUBs are being tested at Japan’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation until next March, where they plan to add GPS so that visitors can take a self-guided tour.