Asimo Can Copy Your Dance Moves

The Honda humanoid has learned to mimic a person's movements in real time

2 min read
Asimo Can Copy Your Dance Moves

Asimo, the Honda humanoid, one of the world's most loved robots, was showing off its dance moves this week at the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in San Francisco.

The robot was here to demonstrate some new tricks it's been learning from scientists at the Honda Research Institute in Mountain View, Calif.

Victor Ng-Thow-Hing, Behzad Dariush, and colleagues work with Asimo seeking to develop robotics technologies that can assist people, especially in terms of mobility.

In one demonstration, the scientists showed how Asimo can mimic a person's movements in real time. The researchers use Microsoft's Kinect 3D sensor to track selected points on a person's upper body, and their software uses an inverse kinematics approach to generate control commands to make Asimo move. The software prevents self collisions and excessive joint motions that might damage its system and is integrated with Asimo's whole-body controller in order to maintain balance. The researchers say that the ability of mimicking a person in real time could find applications in robot programming and interactive teleoperation, among other things.

In another demo, the scientists showed how they're using gestures to improve Asimo's communication skills. They're developing a gesture-generating system that takes any input text and analyzes its grammatical structure, timing, and choice of word phrases to automatically generate movements for the robot. To make the behavior more realistic, the scientists used a vision system to capture humans performing various gestures, and then they incorporated these natural movements into their gesture-generating system.

Here's a video showing these two demos:

This was my first encounter face to face with Asimo, and upon close inspection I noticed something on Asimo's face that I didn't know it was there. Take a look at the photo below. Can you see it?

honda asimo humanoid robot smiling

Photos: Evan Ackerman; video: Erico Guizzo and Evan Ackerman

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
DarkGray

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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