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November 18, 2003

A REAL Robot

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 2:18 pm

There are Real Robots and there are REAL robots. Welcome to the world of true bipedal research robots! While the closest one can get to owning one of these is still a couple of years and many thousands of dollars away, a robot-toy fan can get by pretty well with a nifty scale model figure of the Honda ASIMO…

As a longtime fan of Real Robot designs, I guess it’s only natural that I’ve taken an interest into real world research on bipedal robotics. Among the most well-known today are SONY’s SDR-4X (a.k.a QRIO), Honda’s ASIMO and the PINO by ERATO. In true Japanese fashion, they not only push the limits of technology, they also sport fairly attractive industrial designs as well. Of course they are nowhere near Patlabor-ish levels of anime appeal, but they are literally taking steps towards the slick humanoid-industrialism seen in Chris Cunningham‘s robo-Björk music video. And of course, owning toys of such groundbreaking mechanoids is a dream come true of sorts for me!

ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) comes in a rather drab package. Other than the figure itself, the only other accessories are a pair of closed fists which you can swap with the standard open-hands. Where the toy really shines is the attention to detail and faithful reproduction of the actual ASIMO’s astonishing agility. The figure comes with over 20 points of articulation, some in 2 axis of movements. The matte-white body stands at 6″ tall with crisp molding and clearly printed markings. The oversized backpack (in real life it houses the power supply) is in a nice shade of metallic silver with shadowed vents and a prominent HONDA emblem emblazoned across the back. Although the lighting makes it hard to see, ASIMO’s
has 2 large circular eyes and a smile under the transparent faceplate.

Once out of the box, I got down to exploring how well little ASIMO moves. Dancing on one leg is entirely possible, as are full squats and other whimsical poses. The expressiveness of the toy is quite amazing. Although not in the same scale, I had to put ASIMO next to my 1/6 scale PINO for a little comparison. PINO doesn’t have as crisp a sculpt, but its no slouch either when it comes to poseability, with about 17 points of articulation… including a waist-joint.

All in all, I’m really pleased with these niche toys. They may not have Rocket Punches or even do anything useful yet, but they point the way to a day when bipedal robots join our common reality. I await that day with eager enthusiasm. :-)

P.S. A big thank you goes out to my friend Wosing for helping to track down this elusive little toy in Tokyo. Arigato Gozaimashita!


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