Asimo struggles on first day as science museum guide

Pity Japan's poor robots. We expect so much of them, and they just don't deliver.

Honda's Asimo is the country's most sophisticated humanoid robot. It's been looking for a job ever since it was unveiled nearly 13 years ago, and this week it got another chance.

Asimo was put on duty as a guide at Tokyo's National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (aka Miraikan) and was supposed to interact with guests. That proved too challenging. … Read more

Robot abuse is a bummer for the human brain

When they take over, robots will surely take advantage of studies suggesting we pathetic meatsacks are hardwired to sympathize with them.

Watching a robot being cuddled or abused produces similar reactions in humans to watching people undergo the same treatment, according to two new studies to be presented at the International Communication Association Conference in London in June.

In one, subjects were shown videos in which popular dino-bot Pleo was either hugged or treated violently. Perhaps not surprisingly, the subjects' skin conductance levels rose when Pleo suffered, suggesting they were distressed.

They also reported feeling bad for the bot. Check out how the poor little guy was mistreated in the vid below. … Read more

Robots invade iPad with content-rich app

I was once served tea by Honda's Asimo, arguably the most advanced humanoid robot in the world.

Watching the machine sidle up to my table and serve the tea with the elegance of a veteran waiter, and then bow to me before retreating, was nothing short of astonishing.

The experience reinforced my belief that no matter how many times you see robots in photos or videos, nothing can match a real-life experience.

Asimo can be hard to meet, but with a lavishly illustrated new educational app from IEEE Spectrum, you can get interactive with him and 125 other bots -- from Rethink Robotics' Baxter assembly bot to Waseda University's keyboard-playing Wabot 2, and learn all about them. It's the next best thing to seeing robots up close. … Read more

Honda's Miimo is a robot goat for your lawn

Over a decade after unveiling its signature humanoid robot Asimo, Honda is finally releasing a home appliance with robotics chops: an automatic lawn mower called Miimo.

The droid trims lawns several times per week, cutting only 3 millimeters (0.12 inch) of grass at a time. The clippings are small enough so that they can be left on the lawn to act as natural fertilizer, the automaker said.

Miimo mows in a random or directional pattern, staying within an electronic perimeter but using its sensors to navigate the lawn, even on sloping areas. If its bump sensors encounter an obstacle, it will stop and then set off in another direction. It will automatically devote more time to patches of long grass. … Read more

DARPA plans 'Avatar' surrogate robots

Could soldiers of the future fight battles in robot bodies controlled from afar? DARPA apparently thinks so, and the agency wants to create an army of surrogate fighting droids.

The U.S. military's research wing apparently is planning surrogates like in the film "Avatar" but with robots instead of giant Na'vi. It has a $7 million program code-named "Avatar" in its 2013 budget, according to Wired.

The robots would reduce risk to human fighters, just as thousands of aerial drones are already keeping pilots out of harm's way. … Read more

Asimo does bottles, lovey-dovey hand gestures

Honda's humanoid robot Asimo can now run faster, hop around, autonomously avoid people, and communicate in sign language with its new hands.

In the first major update to the droid in four years, Asimo has improved AI skills, being able to operate continuously without human control, and also has better locomotion, and a remarkable 57 axes of movement.

It's another step in the multimillion dollar, decades-old effort to make Asimo, first unveiled 12 years ago, useful. It also follows criticism of Japan's robotics community for a limp response to the Fukushima nuclear crisis. … Read more

The 404 942: Where we're ready to believe you (podcast)

Happy Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Day! Actually, that probably means none of you are listening to our show today. You're likely at your local Costco, Sam's Club, or other restaurant supply depot stocking up on Twizzlers and Four Loko for the next two weeks of gaming hibernation.

But if you're ready for a break, today we'll tell you how to case business interiors for your next B&E using Google+ and GMaps, access the hidden panorama mode in the iOS5 camera app, pay $19 for a truly unlimited everything cell phone plan, and why you probably shouldn't let a cowboy doctor in the UK shine a laser in your beautiful brown eyes.

Stream or download today's podcast after the break!… Read more

New Iran threat: Slow-moving humanoid robots

How many nuclear centrifuges does Iran have? That's academic. Always showing off its tech might, the Islamic republic now has a bipedal robot that can walk around like a person, albeit at sub-human speeds. It's the latest volley in the humanoid arms race pushing us all toward the Singularity.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad showed off the terrifying humanoid at an event over the weekend marking Iranian industrial prowess. A state-run newspaper report said the automaton is designed for work in "sensitive jobs" but did not elaborate.

Dubbed Surena II after an ancient Persian warrior, the bot could … Read more

Panasonic robot mascot off to Le Mans

Panasonic wants to prove that its AA alkaline Evolta batteries are the best in the world--even though it already has a certificate from Guinness World Records.

The electronics giant plans to send its 12-inch Evolta robot car in France, where it will race around part of the Le Mans endurance circuit for as long as possible.

Evolta batteries have a 10-year shelf life. Panasonic boasts they're the longest-lasting batteries of their kind in the world.

Built of carbon fiber over an aluminum frame, the Evolta robot car (more like a tricycle) travels at a blinding top speed of 0.… Read more

Honda thinks up mind-controlled robots

We're not just moving toward the day when robots can do everything for us. We're apparently moving toward the day when we can just think about what we want done, and get it (almost) presto.

Japan's Honda Research Institute and precision-equipment manufacturer Shimadzu on Tuesday demonstrated a rather mind-boggling technology that lets humans control a bot through thought alone--thus taking the pesky button pressing, voice commands, and remote controls out of the equation.

But don't start trying to telepath your Scooba into writing your doctoral thesis just yet. For now, researchers are focusing on getting the … Read more