The end of Asimo

ASIMO. Or, Asimo. Honda’s robot, supposedly named for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, but with a name suspiciously like that of Robot pioneer Isaac Asimov, is no more. Actually hasn’t been more for some time. Asimo is no longer being developed by his parent, Honda, and it’s taken me some time to process that.

A pioneer

Asimo was the first robot to walk on two legs, and he did so with a halting, almost arthritic gait. Asimo showcased future technologies, although very few of his technologies ever really went anywhere.

One thing you can say though is that Asimo cleared the way for much more sophisticated robots like this one which struts so confidently or this one that seems like an extraordinarily bad idea. In a generation, robots have learned how to walk quite well, although no one has an idea what to do with that capability yet.

The PR value

Really if Asimo had any value to anyone, it was to Honda who built him. Honda is known as a reliable if stodgy maker of cars, motorcycles and lawnmowers. Asimo, wearing his Honda billboard front and center, helped remind people that Honda was also a technology leader. I think that in the 2000s that might have helped, if the company hadn’t bollocksed the launch of its hybrid vehicles so badly. The company produces mostly generic sedans these days, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s just a step removed from where they probably hoped they would be in 2018.

And then there’s this

The reason Asimo is near and dear to my heart is this video, which never ceases to cheer me up when I need to chuckle:

I know I’ll get in trouble for viewing it so many times. I know it’s not a smart move when the robots rise up and take over. But, strangely, I don’t care. I should care, but I don’t. There’s just something so funny about the way he buckles and the way the narrator just keeps on talking.

For better or worse (and I think better) Asimo is probably the first step on the road to Westworld. Once robots can walk well, we can build them to look more like us. (Some companies are already taking creepy stepsin this direction.) Once they look more like us, we’ll put them in amusements parks. Then we’ll probably shoot them. Then, well, if you’ve seen the show, you know what happens next.