Published on July 5th, 2018 | by Subhash Nair0
Honda Cancels ASIMO. We Celebrate Its Development History
Today we received news that Honda would be retiring ASIMO after 32 years of development. The robot itself only made its public appearance in the year 2000, but had been in the works ever since Honda opened their Saitama research facility. Asimo went through 7 iterations, before assuming its final form.
We thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share what we experienced last October when we visited Honda’s Collection Hall at the Twin Ring Motegi.
Let’s start with the E-Series
This was where it all began. Honda created these six humanoid robots from 1986 to 1993, making them more and more complex with each iteration.
This is the E0. All it could do was walk in a straight line, with its joints at its groin, knees and ankles. However, its movement was at a snail’s pace of 5 seconds/step.
Not enough to climb slopes. It’s safe to say that VTEC did not kick in for the E0.
Honda studied human movement further. What they learnt was that when walking was done at a faster pace, the centre of gravity was not always on the sole of the feet.
The E1 walked at a static pace of 0.25km/h with a certain distinction of movement between the two legs.
The E2 showed the first dynamic robotic movement at 1.2km/h and even mimicked the human walk rather well.
In terms of aesthetics, the E2 shows the first step towards beautification. Honda housed its major computing components within a black plastic housing.
The E3 added thigh-like legs and walked at the normal human speed of 3km/h.
It also marked the first use of off-white plastic as the robot’s housing.
These early E-Series bots helped ASIMO’s makers learn how to mimic human leg joint placement, and gave them an opportunity to learn about joint movement during walking. They learned about the centre of gravity of each leg during walking, how much torque was exerted on each joint. They developed angle sensors for the robot to understand its own movement and added impact-absorbent material to its feet.
The next phase saw Honda conducting research on the technology to achieve stable walking and successfully developed three posture control technologies.
With the E4, the knee length was increased to 40cm to simulate the quick human step speed.
The E5 was the first in the series which had autonomous locomotion. Its head cover was a little huge though.
With the E6, Honda’s researchers added Autonomous control of balancing when going up and down the stairs or slopes or stepping over an obstacle. And for the first time, the design got smaller, more streamlined and sleeker.
The E6 was the last of the E-Series robots. Honda had learnt the basics of human locomotion and how to replicate it in a machine. The 3 posture controls it developed were key to ASIMO’s ability to walk like a human.
1. Ground Reaction Control
Firm standing control of the soles of the feet when absorbing floor unevenness
2. Target ZMP (no inertial force) Control
Control to maintain position by accelerating the upper body in the direction it may fall when the soles of the feet cannot stand firmly
3. Foot Planting Location Control
Control using stride length to adjust for deviations in the upper body position caused by target ZMP control
ARE YOU STILL PAYING ATTENTION?
Now we enter the P-Series. These robots helped Honda determine what a humanoid robot should be and look like to function in human society.
The P1 was the first of their robots to add arm-like appendages.
These completed the robots humanoid look and posture. But of course, it was still far from pretty.
The P2 was a major step for the team. It looked great – almost as good as ASIMO does.
It was the first to be shown to the public.
The P3 brought with it the dimensions and close-to-final shape of ASIMO. The height went down from 182cm (P2) to 160cm
The weight too had been significantly reduced.
The P4 came in the year 2000, the same year of ASIMO’s arrival. It brought the weight down from 130kg (P3) to just 80kg.
For the first time, its internal circuitary was completely concealed. Besides the blue, it came very close to ASIMO’s final aesthetic.
And then we got ASIMO itself!
ASIMO wasn’t just done for the sake of making humanoid robots. Honda took what they learnt to enrich human life with walking aids and semi-autonomous driving tech. If you have an Accord, CR-V or Odyssey the Honda Sensing tech in there can probably trace its roots to some of these robots.
For more from our trip to the Honda Collection Hall, click the links below: