ASIMO is still big. It’s just the robot shows that got small.

There are few robots that have ascended to the heights of becoming a household name. Among greats like Johnny 5 and Twiki, stands ASIMO, though you could argue ASIMO is much better because it’s a real robot and not just a puppet or Cousin Itt in a robot suit.

Honda debuted ASIMO as stand-alone bipedal robot in 2000, but its roots go back way further to the E-models of the ’80s. In this retrospective video we can see the humble roots of ASIMO’s signature walk, that looks a bit like Urkle trying to steal the Mona Lisa.

▼ Does life imitate Urkle or does Urkle imitate life?

But far from just an adorable strut, over the years ASIMO was modified to be able to detect objects and humans and respond to facial expressions or even social cues like when someone reaches out for a handshake.

With all those features, it was destined to become an overnight success in the entertainment field. ASIMO toured the world, performed with greats like SMAP and met world leaders like President Barack Obama, whom it played soccer with briefly.

Despite this meteoric rise to fame, modifications to ASIMO slowed down to a near halt sometime in the mid-2010s. The robot continued to delight audiences, however, mainly from its residency at Honda headquarters in Tokyo’s Minato Ward where it performed regular shows.

As time went on, new robots like those weird dogs and creepy parkour bots that Boston Dynamics made emerged, and stole the spotlight from ASIMO’s folksy charm somewhat. In addition, robot needs have evolved as well. ASIMO, much like its more recent rival Pepper, was initially though of as a potential helper robot, but the current trends in Japan are leaning more towards robotic avatars that can be piloted remotely by humans.

Honda has decided to focus on these goals instead, and let ASIMO retire from performing to pursue its own personal projects. On 31 March, it held its farewell show and performed some of its classic bits like running from one side of the stage to another and dancing.

▼ The full final performance (some part have English subtitles shown on the screen behind ASIMO)

And after walking backwards off the stage one last time, so ended an illustrious entertainment career that spanned two decades. Upon hearing the news, comments online – some from people who grew up with ASIMO – came out in support of the non-living legend.

“This is too sad…”
“I remember seeing ASIMO at Suzuka Circuit when I was a kid.”
“Thank you for your hard work and making dreams come true.”
“ASIMO is way better than Pepper.”
“Wow, ASIMO still works after all these years?!”
“Those Boston Dynamics robots all look like weapons. ASIMO just dances.”
“I saw ASIMO for the first time about six years ago at Mobility Resort Motegi. I was so impressed I got goosebumps.”

On the bright side, this is hardly the end for ASIMO, it will still make occasional appearances when needed thanks to the indelible impression it made on everyone. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure the same can be said for Pepper which was also retired by SoftBank suddenly last year.

Oh, don’t look at me like that, Pepper. You know it’s true.

Source: NHK News Web, Hachima Kiko
Top image: YouTube/Honda
Insert image: ©SoraNews24

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