Now that it's mastered walking and capturing hearts with a come-hither glance, Honda scientists have a new task for the hyper-adorable ASIMO: Battling radiation in Japan's Fukushima reactor.
By now you are probably aware that Japan was hit with a massive earthquake this past March. The destruction and loss of life was on a nearly unimaginable scale. Then, in a cruel twist of fate, it was discovered that the quake and its ensuing aftershocks damaged Fukushima's Daiichi nuclear plant, spilling radiation into the surrounding area and prompting an involved series of containment efforts that continue to this day.
As you may also know, the key issue when dealing with rogue radiation is its tendency to make people very, very dead.
Enter ASIMO. Honda's bipedal robot has been wowing crowds with its human-like gait and adorable countenance since it was created over a decade ago. Standing as a "living" proof of concept of the advancements in the field of robotics mankind has made in the last half-century, ASIMO is truly a technological marvel. Now Honda wants the lil' fella to lend a hand to the Daiichi clean up effort.
Before that can happen however, the 'bot needs some serious upgrades. PhysOrg reports:
The company aims to upgrade the robot's upper body functions so that it can move its arms as smoothly as a human being, with motorized shoulders, elbows and wrists ...
The current ASIMO, introduced in 2000 and resembling a small astronaut, stands 130 centimeters (4 feet 3 inches) tall. The bipedal bot can walk or run, carry trays, push carts and shake hands with people.
But to work in the debris-strewn nuclear plant, ASIMO would likely be modified and fitted with tires or caterpillar tracks, the report said.
While Honda has not specified exactly what sort of upgrades ASIMO is receiving, its quite likely the new version will only vaguely resemble the cute-as-a-button ASIMO we've come to know and love over the past 10 years. As PhysOrg states, the 'bot is likely to ditch its puny human-style legs for tank-style treads, and presumably Honda's team of engineers will also use this opportunity to equip ASIMO with all manner of other gadgets useful in the cataclysmic hellscape that exists within the Fukushima reactor.
Now, I'm no robotics engineer, but if I've learned anything from my in-depth study of radiation, it's that ASIMO is going to need some serious protection. I think you all know where I'm going with this.