In 1986, Honda (a company known mainly for its cars and motorbikes) started work on developing a robot which would be able to walk. 28 years later, in 2014, ASIMO was unveiled. ASIMO is currently the most realistic humanoid robot in the world. It can jump, run, walk, climb stairs and even hop on one leg! It can also use its five fully functioning fingers to hold objects in its hands. ASIMO has cameras for eyes, and has the ability to recognise faces and map out its surroundings. It can also understand basic commands and is programmed to know American and British Sign Language so can communicate with deaf people.
Honda has been taking ASIMO all around the world to show it to young people in order to inspire and encourage them to study science. Honda has also said that in the future, ASIMO might be able to do certain things which would be dangerous for humans to do, such as fire fighting and dealing with harmful chemicals.
Many people say that ASIMO is a fantastic creation because it could be used to help elderly and disabled people who cannot do basic important tasks, such as cleaning or washing up. In England, more than half of people aged 75 and over live by themselves, and 5 million of them say that their main form of company comes from the television. The fact that elderly people are increasingly lonely in a society which is built around communication through the internet and social media is incredibly sad.
Personally, although I think ASIMO is an incredible invention, I am disgusted by the fact that we are having to use a robot to combat such a simple problem as loneliness amongst the elderly. It is a horrible thought that no one seems to care enough about the older generation to make an effort to communicate and be friendly with them. When it is eventually released to be sold to the public, ASIMO will not be cheap, so not every lonely person will be able to afford one. So I really think that we must try our best not to rely on technology to do things that we simply cannot be bothered to do. Yes, technology is a wonderful thing and ASIMO is a mind-blowing creation, but we must not use its existence as an excuse not to make the effort with older people.
So if you know an elderly person, like your grandma or grandpa, maybe you should call them up on the phone each week or go round to their house for a cup of tea or coffee and talk about the weather. I'm sure they will really appreciate the effort; a little goes a long way.
What do you think about ASIMO? Do you think that robots can be good at looking after elderly people?