Robots. Whether they're the kind that, defuse bombs or scheme to overthrow humanity, these mechanised marvels have long captured the imaginations of sci-fi writers, nanotechnicians and cinema buffs.
The king of robokind is surely Honda's ASIMO -- the world's most advanced humanoid creation -- which is currently being showcased in an Australian tour. ASIMO, which stands for "Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility", was developed in order to help us humble humans perform tasks that are dangerous, impossible, or just plain annoying: think fighting fires, assisting wheelchair- or bed-bound people and fetching the odd mojito when you can't be bothered wrenching yourself from the spa.
The ASIMO of the current "Alive and Unplugged" tour is 1.3 metres tall, 54 kilograms, and capable of running at six kilometres per hour. It -- or "he", as Honda says -- can also negotiate stairs, recognise people and obstacles and respond to voice commands. You can't nab one for the household just yet, but Honda believes that future iterations of ASIMO will have a day-to-day presence in people's lives.
On Wednesday, CNET.com.au joined a busload of school kids to watch the dress rehearsal of the ASIMO show at Darling Harbour. While there were a lot of bad jokes ("With so many sensors, you can't say I'm not sensitive"), and several dusty pop-culture references (the mention of KITT from Knight Rider was met with blank faces from the assemblage of eight-year-olds), the 20-minute demonstration couldn't help but impress even our jaded selves. There is just something about seeing a child-sized robot performing an enthusiastic dance routine that brings an involuntary smile to the dial.
In this ASIMO video we show you some of the highlights from the show and talk to the robot's minders about tech, the tour, and whether ASIMO could turn evil and enslave us all.
ASIMO shows are on at Darling Harbour five times a day until Sunday November 25. The cheeky little robot then moves to Parramatta before finishing the Australian tour in Brisbane. All shows are free -- check the ASIMO tour site for details.