Friday, December 19, 2008


Matt & I went to Disneyland to celebrate my birthday.
I always want to go to Innovations and Matt never wants to.
This time, I insisted (birthday card!) and it was so worth it!
We got to see ASIMO! And I got to be super freaked out by the super-human like qualities of this innovative and long-awaited walking, talking, stair-treading robot.
(PS did you know that "robot" wasn't even coined until 1920?)

Below are bits of video from the fifteen minute demonstration of ASIMO at Disney's Innoventions.
It ends with my reaction immediately following the demonstration- which is mostly just wonder and bewilderment. There was just something terribly daunting about the little 4'3", 120 lb humanoid robot... it was just so... graceful! Such human qualities in the fluidity of its movements. I couldn't help but imagine it silently creeping up my stairs in the middle of the night to inform me that I left the front door unlocked and all of its friends were coming in.

ASIMO stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility. It took the developers of ASIMO over 20 yrs to get robotic walking right. It's something we, as upright beings, really take for granted. I remember when I was in 3rd grade I watched a video on how humans develop; and while a shot played of a toddler being walked down a beach with a parent holding each hand, the narrator said,
"Mankind is on the brink of collapse with each well-balanced step we take,"
and then proceeded to explain the delicate process of the human ability to walk.
The clips in the ASIMO Disney show exemplified the incredible difficulty of mechanically mimicking this. Original biped robots tended to weigh a lot and for a long time could only walk in straight line. Even that did not bode well as any slight disruption or misstep would send the heavy legs & torso careening over. As robotics progressed, walking features improved, but they still seemed to serve little purpose for the help or advancement of humankind.
But ASIMO is capable of moving in curves, walking forward and backwards, side-stepping, and even running; it is specifically designed as a helper with fully functioning five-digit hands and motion sensor cameras capable of maintaining "eye contact" when addressed and commanded.

(I can't help but chuckle at the expression on my face... it's of genuine shocked and rather wide-eyed)
Check out the video below:

ASIMO @ Disneyland from Danica Northend on Vimeo.

This other video, however, gives me hope that we are still superior.
I suppose we won't need John Connor for a long while yet!

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