Honda’s robot museum guide not yet a people person

The Asimo robot ran into problems when it tried to function as a museum guide in a Tokyo demonstration.

Shizuo Kambayashi/Associated Press

The Asimo robot ran into problems when it tried to function as a museum guide in a Tokyo demonstration.

TOKYO — Honda Motor Co.’s walking, talking, robot is running into glitches in its new job as a museum guide.

The bubble-headed Asimo had problems telling the difference between people raising their hands to ask questions and those aiming their smartphones to take photos at the Miraikan science museum.


It froze in mid-action and repeated a programmed remark: ‘‘Who wants to ask Asimo a question?’’

The robot, demonstrated Wednesday, connects wirelessly to sensors in the ceiling so it can discern where a crowd is gathering. It has no voice recognition and responds to written questions selected from a touch-panel device.

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Honda’s robotics, among the most advanced for mobility, have come under fire for lacking practical applications.

Satoshi Shigemi, who oversees Honda’s robotics technology, acknowledged more work is needed. He said the goal is to have Asimo recognize who is talking to it, such as an adult versus a child, and respond accordingly. ‘‘Right now, it can recognize a child waving to it, but it’s not able to comprehend the meaning of the waving,’’ he told reporters.

A possible future use for Asimo would be to help people buy tickets from vending machines at train stations, speeding up the process for those unfamiliar with it.

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