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Honda Introduces Walking Robot

Sat., Aug. 2, 1997, midnight

Science fiction came that much closer to science fact Monday, when Honda Motor Co. introduced a two-legged robot that can walk, reconnoiter - even do simple fix-it jobs.

The 6-foot, 462-pound “P-2” has two arms, two legs, a squarish head, small platforms for feet, and resembles a man in a boxy space suit.

As in the U.S. Sojourner rover currently picking its way around rocks on Mars, the P-2’s circuitry is sophisticated enough to decide for itself when to try to step over an obstacle, and when to look for and try another route.

That allows it to do uncannily human-seeming things - such as finding a work site, pushing a cart to it, and tightening a loose bolt there - all without continuous radio control. It only needs a simple initial command.

P-2 can walk stairs, forward or backward, and keep its balance if given a shove, even on a slope it hasn’t been on before.

Susumu Tachi, a robotics professor at Tokyo University, likened it to the androids of science fiction.

“A truly humanoid robot was always considered to be just a dream or a product of fiction, but this proves that it is reality,” he said.

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