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Saturday, May 17, 2008
Honda's ASIMO Robot Conducts Orchestra
Image: courtesy of Honda Motor Co.

Honda's ASIMO Robot Conducts Detroit Symphony Orchestra

ASIMO is Honda's Research and Development robot that stands 120 cm (3 feet 11 inches) tall and has an impressive list of technical features and capabilities. The robot can replicate human walking and climb stairs. The ASIMO robot has some artificial intelligence capabilities, like tracking the movements of people, and greeting them as they approach. Additionally, the robot can recognise human motion and posture and responds with a handshake if a hand is presented to it, or responds with a wave when it is waved at. In addition to understanding voice commands, it responds to commands based upon pointing to a location for it to move to through an analysis of the geometric positioning of the requester's arms and line of sight.

In Detroit last Tuesday (May13, 2008), the Honda Asimo Robot shook hands with Yo-Yo Ma, the world famous cellist during Ma's sell-out performance with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO). ASIMO stands for Advanced Step In Innovative Mobility and the robot performed a first, which was to conduct the orchestra through a short piece titled "The Impossible Dream" from Man Of La Mancha by Mitch Leigh. Ma was presented with the "Changing Lives Through Music" Highest Achievement Award at the concert.

When walking, the Honda ASIMO robot can distinguish between approaching moving objects and those that are stationary. Probably the two most exceptional capabilities the ASIMO robot has are to recognise types of sounds and perform facial recognition. It even responds with the persons name if his/her face has been previously registered. In responding to sound it can determine the location of the sound and can recognise sudden unusual sounds, turning to the source of the noise. Honda has already used the analysis of human walking developed for ASIMO to create a Walking Assist device for elderly or disabled people, providing power assist to their motion.

In general, however, the development of artificial intelligence poses its own unique concerns to human society because of the need to assure that machines are used only to assist humanity versus the potential they could eventually have to exercise control over us. It is no longer the 'stuff' of science fiction anymore - it has become fact.

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