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ment since 1986 at the Honda Corporation in Japan.The earliest unit in this series could indeed have come from a science fiction film. It consisted of a pair of legs attached to a large squarish box the size of a microwave oven, and resembled the walking battledroids seen in the Star Wars movies. If this inhuman-looking robot moved with any fa- cility and speed, it would be a fearsome thing to see bearing down on you. Fortunately, this early model was not a very impressive walker: it took all of 5 seconds to calculate the leg position and foot placement for each step, and it could walk only in a straight line.

Further development produced refinement after refinement, but it took 10 years for Honda to unveil its first humanoid walking robots, called P2 and P3, followed by an improved version called ASIMO (advanced step in innovative mobility), announced in 2000. P3 and ASIMO have appeared in Hondas corporate advertising and are avail- able for public events and expositions. In early 2002,ASIMO rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Hondas listing on the exchange. In fact, the robot is being groomed as a general-purpose unit: According to Honda, In the future, we anticipate ASIMO developing capabilities in areas such as household assistance and tasks dangerous for humanslike firefighting.

Both P3 and ASIMO resemble a person in a white spacesuit or suit of armor, topped by a helmet with a dark visor; nothing like a face is visible. Each robot carries a sizable backpack, which houses its on-board computer and its batteries.The differences between P3, and ASIMO, developed only a few years later, illustrate the rapid pace of robotic improvement. P3 is the size of a very small adult, standing 1.6 meters (51) tall, but despite the use of the light metal magnesium in its construction, comes in at a hefty 130 kilograms (285 pounds). ASIMO, however, has been pared down to child-size, standing 1.2 meters (310) tall and weighing only 43 kilograms (95 pounds) Yet this smaller robot is smarter and more able than its older brother, although it walks slightly slower, at 1.6 kilometer per hour (1 mile per hour). One battery charge keeps it going for 30 minutes.

ASIMO is more flexible than P3, sporting 26 degrees of freedom

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