Source AP ©

Honda's robots working in pairs

Actually, there is nothing new that one robot can serve a person, but Honda says its robots are now ready to work in pairs - and they can even serve drinks.

At a demonstration held Tuesday at its Tokyo headquarters, automaker Honda Motor Co. showed off two of the child-sized Asimo robots serving tea and performing other tasks in coordination with one another.

The bubble-headed robots seemed to pick their steps carefully as they made their way around the room, picking up and putting down drink trays and pushing around a refreshments cart.

Honda said it has developed a system to link its robots together so they can share information about where each one is and what each is doing.

The 130-centimeter (51-inch) tall Asimo is "smarter" now, thanks to upgrades that allow it to do more tasks without human help, Honda said.

Working as a greeter or shop assistant, for example, the robot can now recognize drink choices and carry a tray with the requested drink on it to the person who placed the order.

The Asimo, which looks like a real-life child in a white spacesuit, also does a better job now of moving around people because of intelligence technology that allows it to better predict people's movements so it doesn't get in the way.

The robot can even automatically head off to the nearest charging station when its batteries fall below a certain level.

Honda has been working on robots since 1986. Rival Toyota Motor Corp. has been aggressively beefing up its own robotics team, showing off last week a robot that could play the violin.

The Japanese government has been recently pushing companies and researchers to make robotics a pillar of this nation's business. Other companies, including Hitachi Ltd., Fujitsu Ltd. and NEC Corp., are also developing robots.

Asimo - which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility and is play on the Japanese word for "legs" - first became available for rental in 2000. It's considered one of the world's most advanced humanoids. Seen often at Honda and other events, it can walk, even jog, wave, avoid obstacles and carry on simple conversations.

"By the end of 2010s, we'd like to see these robots working at every street corner of the city," said Tomohiko Kawanabe of Honda's Fundamental Technology Research Center.