The "all-new" Asimo has been shown off, equipped with what Honda describes as "autonomous behaviour control technology".
The new system allows Asimo to continue moving without input from a controller, whilst its new, slimmer body gives the automaton surprisingly good dexterity. Both gross and fine motor skills have improved as it can now hop and unscrew a flask and poor the beverage into a cup.
As part of the new evolution of Asimo, Honda has designated a new name for its continued development in robot technology, called Honda Robotics.
Honda is making a big deal out of the new technology within Asimo, stating that it's progressed from an "automatic machine to an autonomous machine", Honda continues:
"The all-new ASIMO is now advanced from an 'automatic machine' to an 'autonomous machine' with the decision-making capability to determine its behavior in concert with its surroundings such as movements of people. At the beginning of the development process, the following three factors were identified as necessary for a robot to perform as an autonomous machine, and the technologies required to realize these capabilities were developed:
"1) high-level postural balancing capability which enables the robot to maintain its posture by putting out its leg in an instant, 2) external recognition capability which enables the robot to integrate information, such as movements of people around it, from multiple sensors and estimate the changes that are taking place, and 3) the capability to generate autonomous behavior which enables the robot to make predictions from gathered information and autonomously determine the next behavior without being controlled by an operator. With these capabilities, the all-new ASIMO takes another step closer to practical use in an environment where it coexists with people."
The key element to all this appears to be the advancement of sensor technology, enabling for a greater amount of information to be passed through to the processor, and as a result enable a more advanced response.
The Asimo machine will change its actions according to the actions of another party and is also able to predict movement. It can also process a variety of faces and voices, meaning it can, in effect, recognise individuals.
This coupled with the improvements to its physical action creates a very powerful imitation of both intelligence and dexterity.
Not wanting to take anything away from the massive achievement of the Honda Robotics team, it's important to remember that all the action within the video are carried out under very controlled conditions; if any chaotic factor entered the carefully balanced equation, and indeed robot, the illusion would no doubt be broken.
We have to keep telling ourselves that, as it really is astounding, and, at times, maybe even a little disconcerting, to watch.