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Honda to stop creating new Asimo robots after 18 years


Honda Motor’s robot Asimo interacts with visitors at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo on July 3, 2013.

Photo: AFP

It played football with then-US president Barack Obama and danced for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but Honda Motor Co’s Asimo robot might have reached the end of the line.

Launched in 2000, the humanoid machine resembling a shrunken spaceman has become arguably Japan’s most famous robot, wheeled out to impress visiting politicians over the years.

However, Honda yesterday said that it could scrap future generations of Asimo, now on its seventh iteration.

“We will still continue research into humanoid robots, but our future robots might not be named Asimo,” Honda spokesman Hajime Kaneko told reporters.

The comment came after public broadcaster Japan Broadcasting Corp (NHK) reported that the Japanese carmaker had terminated Asimo and dissolved the team making one of the world’s most famous humanoid robots.

NHK said increasingly intense competition in the field could be a reason, pointing to the example of US-based Boston Dynamics Inc’s Atlas robot, which can jump onto a high step and even do a backflip.

Honda denied that it had dissolved the team working on Asimo, but the brains behind the bot look likely to shift their expertise to developing robots with specific applications.

“We have obtained lots of technologies while developing Asimo and how to utilize them is one issue,” Kaneko said.

The company is expected to focus on humanoid robots that can help care for elderly and disabled people, NHK said, citing unnamed company sources.

Although never sold commercially, Asimo attracted international attention, playing football with Obama in 2014, dancing for Merkel in 2015 and taking a selfie with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull the same year.

There have been no upgrades to the model since its seventh generation, which debuted in 2011 and can listen to and understand three people talking simultaneously.

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