For starters, Asimo’s legs are stronger than ever and have an increased range of motion. He’s now capable of walking and even running backwards and jumping on both feet. That’ll certainly come in handy if Honda ever teaches Asimo to play volleyball, but for now it’ll help him bounce up and down like an excited kindergartener.
It’s actually a pretty big deal, and it required some big improvements in Asimo’s balance systems. Honda says the tweaks have made it easier for Asimo to move around even more like humans do — avoiding objects in his path and correcting course on the fly. It’s important to be able to do that when you can run at speeds up to 9km/h. Nobody wants to get shoulder checked by an uppity robot.
Honda has also outfitted Asimo with the same kind of sensors that are being used to radically improve prosthetic hands. There’s a tactile sensor in each palm and it’s tied to force sensors in each finger. Working in concert with Honda’s software, they allow Asimo to do things like pour bottled water without damaging the flimsy plastic bottle or firmly shake your hand without accidentally crushing any bones.
After the 2014 update, Asimo is also a better communicator. He’s able to distinguish multiple faces and voices. Dialoguing with the hearing impaired isn’t an issue, either, since Honda has integrated full support for American Sign Language.
What’s that, Asimo? You love us? We love you too, as long as you promise never to override your programming and choke us with your new pressure-sensitive hands.