Honda Motor Co Ltd has fortified intelligence technologies of its ASIMO two-legged humanoid robot, enabling it to act more autonomously than before in view of its operations in human-coexisting environments.
Honda enabled multiple ASIMOs to work together, while avoiding hitting each other or people when encountering others in a walkway. The new ASIMO also returns to its battery charging station on its own and charges its battery while standing. Honda will conduct test operations of new ASIMO, making it guide visitors and deliver refreshments at its headquarters.
The new function to work together uses a shared server, from which instructions are transmitted to each ASIMO via a WLAN network. When the server assigns tasks to each ASIMO in the most efficient manner, taking their positions, operating status and remaining battery levels, etc into consideration, ASIMOs in the network autonomously do their tasks.
If a guest that came earlier than one that an ASIMO is currently taking to a table orders a beverage, for example, another ASIMO on standby delivers it instead or each of the two ASIMOs deliver drinks on a wagon to different tables. The number of ASIMOs that can be networked for task sharing is unlimited in theory, Honda said.
The ability to cross and avoid hitting others was added in consideration of ASIMO's operations at locations, in which a number of people are walking around. When a person is coming from forward when it is traveling, ASIMO senses it through its eye camera mounted on its head and predicts movements based on the person's traveling direction and speed. Dynamically calculating an appropriate path to avoid hitting the person, ASIMO crosses him/her and continues to travel.
If there is not enough space to cross each other, ASIMO stops, steps back and yields the way. When multiple ASIMOs come across, they also cross by sensing each other's position.
When finishing assigned tasks, ASIMO automatically returns to its station to recharge its battery. Thanks to this capability, there is no more concern for battery exhaustion, and continuous service can be provided using multiple ASIMOs. Previous ASIMO required its battery to be replaced after about 40 minutes of operation.
The newly developed battery charging station sends power through a connector on ASIMO's backpack. When approaching near to the station, ASIMO turns its back on the station. Then the station's infrared sensor detects the marker on ASIMO's back and corrects ASIMO's position. When ASIMO comes to the right position, a connector projects from the station and joints ASIMO.
Honda also enabled new ASIMO to recognize and grab a tray on a wagon using image recognition. Previously, someone had to hand the tray to ASIMO.
"ASIMO was previously controlled by an operator, but in order to coexist with humans, ASIMO needs higher intelligence so it can respond to environmental variations without an operator," said Honda. Ensuring safety and overcoming other challenges through test operations, Honda will seek further enhancement of ASIMO's autonomy.
Two units of new ASIMO working together (Approx. 8 minutes)
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