Honda Robotics

In November 2011, Honda established a collective term, Honda Robotics, and the logo to represent Honda's robotics technologies and application products created through its research and development of humanoid robot represented by ASIMO.

“If we could make a product like this, mobility would be more fun.” This is the spirit that infuses Honda's ongoing robotics research, which in addition to developing ASIMO strives to propose compelling, next-generation mobility solutions like the Walking Assist Device and U3-X that excite and inspire people. Going forward, we will also work actively to accelerate the process of bringing applied products to practical use.

Honda Robotics logo mark

New ASIMO

The all-new ASIMO is now advanced from an "automatic machine" to an "autonomous machine" with the decision-making capability to determine its behavior in concert with its surroundings such as movements of people. This new functionality has driven a dramatic advance in ASIMO's capabilities as the world's first* robot capable of controlling its behavior autonomously, for example continue moving without being controlled by an operator.

Honda identified the following three factors as necessary for a robot to perform as an autonomous machine, and the technologies required to realize these capabilities were developed; 1) high-level postural balancing capability which enables the robot to maintain its posture by putting out its leg in an instant, 2) external recognition capability which enables the robot to integrate information, such as movements of people around it, from multiple sensors and estimate the changes that are taking place, and 3) the capability to generate autonomous behavior which enables the robot to make predictions from gathered information and autonomously determine the next behavior without being controlled by an operator. With these capabilities, the all-new ASIMO takes another step closer to practical use in an environment where it coexists with people.

*According to Honda research (as of November 8, 2011).

The new ASIMO was announced in 2011

Principal technological improvements in the new ASIMO

Intelligence capabilities

Honda has developed a new system that is a fundamental technology for advanced intelligence, which comprehensively evaluates inputs from multiple sensors that are equivalent to the visual, auditory, and tactile senses of a human being, then estimates the situation of the surrounding environment and determines the corresponding behavior of the robot. With this technology, ASIMO became capable of responding to the movement of people and the surrounding situations. Moreover, coordination between visual and auditory sensors enables ASIMO to simultaneously recognize a face and voice, enabling ASIMO to recognize the voices of multiple people who are speaking simultaneously, which is difficult even for a human being to accomplish.

Physical capabilities

In addition to strengthened legs and an expanded range of leg movement , a newly developed control technology that enables ASIMO to change landing positions in the middle of a motion has enabled ASIMO to walk, run, run backward, hop on one leg or on two legs continuously. With this technology, ASIMO has become capable of more flexibly adapting to changing external situations so that it can, as an example, walk over an uneven surface while maintaining a stable posture.

Task-performing capabilities

Honda has developed a highly functional compact multi-fingered hand, which has a tactile sensor and a force sensor imbedded on the palm and in each finger, respectively, and which acts to control each finger independently. Combined with the object recognition technology based on visual and tactile senses, this multi-fingered hand enables the all-new ASIMO to perform tasks with dexterity, such as picking up a glass bottle and twisting off the cap, or holding a soft paper cup to pour a liquid without squishing it. Moreover, ASIMO is now capable of making sign language expressions which require the complex movement of fingers.

High-Access Survey Robot

This robot assesses structures and measures radiation doses in high locations inside the completely dark nuclear power plant by using the camera, dosimeter, and lighting installed on the end of its arm. It incorporates various technologies developed as part of Honda's ASIMO project, including an arm that uses ASIMO's multi-joint simultaneous control system and posture-stabilizing control technology, a camera that uses 3D point cloud (a group of vertices in a coordinate system) technology from robot development to enable 3D displays, and a stage engineered to be as small as possible to allow the unit to survey high, confined spaces. It is distinguished by its ability to approach target objects in narrow, equipment-filled locations and to be controlled from a remote location with a low radiation dosage.
The unit was shipped to TEPCO's Fukushima Revitalization Headquarters on March 25, 2013, and began operation in June.

The High-Access Survey Robot, which was shipped to TEPCO's Fukushima Revitalization Headquarters on March 25, 2013

Walking Assist Device with Stride Management System

Designed to be worn by individuals whose leg strength has deteriorated due to age or illness, Honda's Walking Assist Device with Stride Management System helps the wearer walk by adjusting stride length and walking rhythm so as to assist leg movements.

Like ASIMO, the Walking Assist Device incorporates proprietary Honda control technologies mimicking human walking that were achieved through the cumulative study of human walking. Applying cooperative control based on the information obtained from hip angle sensors, the motors provide optimal assistance based on a command from the control CPU. With this assist, the user's stride will be lengthened compared to the user's normal stride without the device and therefore and the user can walk faster, further, and more easily.

The compact design of the device was achieved with flat brushless motors and a control system developed by Honda. In addition, a simple design to be worn with a belt around the hip and thigh was employed to help achieve overall weight as light as approximately 2.4kilograms. As a result, the device reduces the user's load and can be fit to different body shapes.

Honda is currently providing the Walking Assist Device for use in an experiment being carried out by the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology (located in Obu-shi, Aichi Prefecture) to verify its effectiveness in preventing the need for nursing care. Hiroyuki Shimada, manager of the Department for Research and Development to Support Independent Life of Elderly and the individual responsible for the experiment, explained, "This is the first time in the world that research is being conducted into devices like this one that can help people with weakened legs walk. If the results can be scientifically verified, we should see this device used by local governments in the future in programs to prevent the need for nursing care." In this way, work is underway to commercialize the device.

The Walking Assist Device with Stride Management System was announced in 2008

Walking Assist Device with Bodyweight Support System

The new walking assist device with the bodyweight support system reduces the load on leg muscles and joints (in the hip, knees, and ankles) by supporting a portion of the person's bodyweight.

The device has a simple structure consisting of seat, frame, and shoes, and the user can put it on by simply wearing the shoes and lifting the seat into position. Moreover, a mechanism that directs the assisting force toward the user's center of gravity and the ability to control the assist force in concert with the movement of the legs make it possible for the device to provide natural assistance in various postures and motions such as walking, going up and down stairs, standing. and in a semi-crouching position.

The device only weighs about 6.5 kilograms, and it lifts itself as it operates so that the user has very little sense of the unit's weight. Additionally, the device is designed to fit between the legs so that it offers little resistance during maneuvers such as changing directions.

The Walking Assist Device with Bodyweight Support System was announced in 2008

U3-X/UNI-CUB

The U3-X features a compact, one-wheel style design that allows the operator to move freely side-to-side, forward, backward, or diagonally by simply leaning the upper body to shift body weight. This personal mobility solution, which combines the capabilities of a person and a vehicle, lets the user move in any direction, turn, stop, and control their speed, just as if they were walking under their own power.

The high degree of freedom manifested in the U3-X's movement derives from the use of balance control technology developed as part of ASIMO research and the proprietary* Honda Omni Traction Drive System, the first of its kind in the world. We kept the device as small as possible—it fits between the feet in order to provide a comfortable ride that inspires peace of mind, keep the user's eyes level with pedestrians so that a natural line of sight can be maintained, and enable hands-free movement.

Even with all the technology it incorporates, the U3-X weighs less than 10 kilograms, allowing it to be easily carried.

UNI-CUB, an evolution of the U3-X toward commercialization, is designed for use in indoor spaces and facilities with lots of foot traffic. Compared to the U3-X, it is distinguished by improved stability and travel performance as well as an additional turning wheel that has been uncoupled from its balance control, making it easier to turn the unit. Since the device can be controlled either by shifting one's body weight or by choosing a direction and speed with a smartphone or other touch-panel device, it's easy to use, even for beginners.

*According to Honda research.

Basic specifications are available here.

The U3-X was announced in 2009

The UNI-CUB was announced in 2012

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