I got to meet ASIMO at the Honda HQ in Slough. They demonstrated his ability to walk dynamically (i.e. not balancing on a single leg between steps), to run (very impressive), to kick a football, deliver a tray of drinks, face tracking and of course … dance.
According to the guy I spoke to after the event, for that demo, ASIMO had a map of the floor, and the operator was giving him commands to walk from X to Y. The number of steps and the direction, joint control, etc, was then all executed autonomously in ASIMO. This particular model didn’t have sonar, so didn’t have obstacle avoidance, but others do. Same for climbing stairs, the command is given to climb the stairs, then ASIMO calculates the position and joint control autonomously.
Although ASIMO is not truly autonomous, the level of processing is amazing and the aesthetics and design really make you feel relaxed with a robot. You feel compassion for it. I almost felt sorry for it, being made to perform. 🙂 However, the employees who manage ASIMO and careful to refer to ASIMO as an “it” not a “him” or a “her”. Apparently its not a boy or a girl. However, the French member of staff I spoke to, told me there is no French word for “it” and “robot” is a masculine noun, so for him, ASIMO is always little boy ! 🙂