What a cute little guy Asimo is. He is shiny and white, looks as though he may be wearing a kind of spacesuit and has a kind of boyish voice. He is very well behaved and goes back into his tent at the end of the show. So what is he?
Asimo stands for Advanced Step in Innovation Mobility. Honda have been developing him since 1986. I say him. He is really an “it” but that seems somehow wrong. Asimo is only 4 feet tall, with eyes at the height of a seated adult but he really does make you think that inside there is a real person, as the robot is capable of doing things like walking, running in a semi-circle, doing press-ups and kicking a football.
All of these actions are done it appears without human interference. In rather sinister fashion however, the two presenters at the McEwan Hall on a Saturday in early April could only think of one thing for Asimo to do for them; to fetch a tray with drinks on it and bring it to their table……..is that all he is good for? Will he be subjected to a life of slavery, waiting on humans and fulfilling their dietary and beverage requirements? It would be a pity if that is the case.
Asimo is the result of over twenty years of research and is the most advanced humanoid robot in the world today. In 1986 the bi-pedal robot built by Honda could only walk in a straight line and it took five seconds to take one step, then in 1996 it progressed to doing simple tasks like pushing a trolley. Now Asimo is acting as though he can think for himself! Honda’s advert was shown during the presentation accompanied by the music “To Dream the Impossible Dream”. And there must have been times when it did seem impossible. It certainly was a little unreal in the vast space of the McEwan Hall to watch Asimo being put through his paces by Sethu Vijayakumar Professor of Robotics at Edinburgh University and Fran Robertson, a TV presenter.
However it was odd that they felt that they needed prompt cards to carry it off and my view is that the quality of the presentation was not what Asimo deserved.
The Science Festival could organise things better in future. I was part of a large crowd who flocked to the McEwan Hall over that weekend, but unhappily had to queue in the rain for the best part of half an hour until the show kicked off late.
Ken Andrew was there from West Linton and he told me that he was freezing cold and had been waiting opposite the Dugald Stewart Building for more than 20 minutes with his family. Another ticket holder told me that they had been told it was to do with the fact that some people had to have wheelchair access. I knew that this was not true as I had spoken with the person at the disabled entrance on the way past. There was no-one waiting there to get in.
So maybe in future the robot could help out?