CES 2007: The robots of CES

Asimo is back. No bigger but better than before

There's a disheartening lack of robots on the show floor here at CES, despite a whole day of conferences yesterday with exciting titles like 'A robot in every home'. Other than a couple of Star Wars-esque automated floor cleaning machines - which disappointingly can only cope with un-carpeted surfaces - most of the automatons fall squarely into the novelty bracket.

The company behind popular Christmas toy Robosapien, WowWee , is here. Spurred on, no doubt, by the success of Robosapien, it's showing off a Starship Troopers style bug - a remote controlled flying insect (complete with flapping wings), and a sing-a-long Elvis robotic head.

Robot of the show, though, is once again Honda's multi-million dollar Asimo . Looking, moving and talking all too disturbingly like a small child, Honda again wowed the crowds through hourly demos of its bipedal droid.

The latest version of Asimo can now run in a straight line at 6km/h - lifting both feet off the ground for 0.8 of a second between each pace. Even more impressively, it can run in a circle at 5km/h; an impressive feat given the amount of computing power required to maintain its balance.

It can also react to being touched, and is spatially aware - to the extent that it can generate and store local maps of an area - so it knows when something has been moved.

Asimo can push a cart, and climb or descend stairs. The new Asimo can also carry objects - a vital step, Honda claims, towards its commercial release. Its applications would include carrying out tasks for the elderly or disabled, and entering high risk areas or even firefighting. Adam Oxford

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