Image: Asimo and wooden model
The Asimo robot keeps its balance on a swaying platform by tilting its body, while its wooden counterpart collapses into the arms of scientist Ryotaro Inoue during a science class demonstration in Tokyo on Wednesday.
updated 4/6/2005 6:23:57 PM ET 2005-04-06T22:23:57

A walking childlike robot from Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co. is entering classrooms to help teachers demonstrate the wonders of science.

The 51-inch-tall (130-centimeter-tall), bubble-headed robot named Asimo has already shown it can jog, walk up stairs, wave, avoid obstacles and carry on simple conversations. It has worked as a guide in showrooms and visited schools as Honda's ambassador.

But this is the first time it's being used in science classes as part of the official school curriculum, Honda said.

In a demonstration for reporters at a Tokyo museum Wednesday, a teacher explained to students how the robot has sensors inside its body to maintain balance, and the robot displayed how it can keep its balance by tilting its body while standing on a swaying platform. A wooden figure standing next to it collapsed.

The teacher also explained to students that weight is transferred from the heel to the toe when a person walks, and he moved the robot in slow motion to demonstrate.

Asimo, which has a name sounding similar to the Japanese word for "foot," will help teach thousands of students at elementary and junior high schools who visit science centers in two Japanese cities as part of their education, Honda and city officials said.

"Adults must work harder to make learning about science more interesting for children," said Mamoru Mohri, an astronaut who heads the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo.

Honda has been working with the museum for three years to arrange for Asimo to take part in science classes, said Kiyotaka Tanaka, a Honda official overseeing the robot project.

Japan leads the world in robotics. Various Japanese companies, including electronics makers Hitachi Ltd., Sony Corp. as well as Honda rival Toyota Motor Corp., have developed entertainment robots.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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