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Japanese Robot on Diplomatic Tour 168

baquiano writes "Inaugurating 21st century diplomacy, Japan's Pime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is visiting Prague this week, accompanied by Honda's experimental humanoid robot, Asimo. According to this story, Asimo even attended the official dinner. Apparently, the Czech Prime Minister Spidla has often been criticized because he's too 'stiff' and 'robot-like.'" Uncomfortable moments aside, it's a fitting tribute, for as stated in the story, the Czech writer Karel Capek was the first to use the term robot.
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Japanese Robot on Diplomatic Tour

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  • ..WILL be /.ed

    Czech Republic: Humanoid Robot Livens Up Japanese Premier's Delegation
    By Kathleen Knox

    Robots that walk and talk like humans have come a long way in the last few years. Now a humanoid robot has even been included in an official delegation accompanying Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to Prague.

    Prague, 22 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- With his white "suit" and standing at just over a meter tall, Asimo the humanoid robot resembles a diminutive astronaut.

    "I am Asimo," he says. "I've come to
    • Come *on*. It will be slashdotted because it is an ASP page? That is just plain stupid.
    • I find it comical that a post like this will be modded to informitive. The author just states something totally stupid and posts the text of the article.
    • ASP != Microsoft (Score:4, Informative)

      by mortonda ( 5175 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @01:13PM (#6773386)
      You know, it is possible to have ASP pages written in perl, on a Linux server, with Apache and mod_perl? Take a look at Apache-ASP [apache-asp.org]. It runs pretty smooth - I'm sure it could withstand a /.'ing.

      Of course, the site could very well be running Microsoft stuff... I was just pointing out that ASP doesn't necessarily imply it.

      • Replying to myself, I know... but I found this interesting:

        telnet www.rferl.org 80
        Connected to www.rferl.org.
        Escape character is '^]'.
        GET / HTTP/1.1

        HTTP/1.1 400 Bad Request
        Date: Sat, 23 Aug 2003 17:36:24 GMT
        Connection: close
        Content-Length: 4009
        Content-Type: text/html
        Server: Apache/1.3.20

        Hmmm. :)
        • Lynx sez:

          File that you are currently viewing

          Linkname: Czech Republic: Humanoid Robot Livens Up Japanese Premier's
          URL: http://www.rferl.org/nca/features/2003/08/2208200 3 162032.asp
          Charset: iso-8859-1 (assumed)
          Server: Apache/1.3.20
          Date: Sat, 23 Aug 2003 18:13:10 GMT
          Cache-Control: private
          Owner(s): None
    • Looks like it's holding up to me. Why would it be more likely to be Slashdotted just because it's ASP? There are worse dynamic formats it could be in that are more intensive, like, say, Perl.

      I unchecked Karma Bonus because I know this is Off-topic. Disregard if you please.
    • So, did anyone at this event say, "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto"?
  • "humanoid"? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ergonal ( 609484 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @12:40PM (#6773209)
    What defines a "humanoid robot"? How much do you have to mimick a human to receive this classification?
  • Theyre slowly going to use robots for offial visits ... atleast theyll follow "protocols" the right way .... :)
    • by wordisms ( 624668 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @01:00PM (#6773319)
      This is very interesting considering this recent article [slashdot.org] on Japan's new 30-year robot plan.

      I've always wondered why the Japanese are so driven towards technology, and especially robots, so much more that most western cultures. Westerners tend to buy more traditional technological products, and those products we buy tend to have a slow progression in form and function.

      This just doesn't seem to be the case in Japan, and I wish I knew why. Unfortunantely I haven't yet been able to visit Japan or become more accustomed with their culture.

      Would any /.'ers like to answer this one?
      • I think I can. From what I've learned during my stay in Japan, it seems that the Japanese attraction to technology is actually pretty normal thing. This leads me to believe that it's Americans and Europeans that are an "abomination" in this regard. Westerners do not think about the future enough and while there might be hundreds of robotics research programs in the US universities, the general public doesn't have a clue. Not so in Japan. And also, while in the US sci-fi is a prerogative of a relatively well
      • Who knows? I'm in a exchange program there right now, and for as much as I was interested in Japan before coming here, I find that the more I learn about its culture, the less I understand about it. :-) (btw, I'm not american either)

        But talking to a friend of mine in the same program, one good trait of these folk seems to be that they're never afraid to try new things, no matter how strange they are, and I'm not talking only about technology. (embracing them after trying is a whole new matter though)

    • Grrrr... Just when I thought I found a job that couldn't be H1-B'd, automated, or downsized. Guess I'll just have to steal stuff.

  • The Czech and Japanese deligation must of gotten a laugh out of it. Any photos with the Prime Minister and Asimo?

    Excuse me while I take care of these catclaws and replace a keyboard.
  • by Meffan ( 469304 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @12:42PM (#6773223)
    "Good evening, Prime Minister Spidla," Asimo said. "Pleased to meet you. I am a robot, a goodwill ambassador."

    A robot delegate clearly has its advantages. He won't embarrass the host with off-color remarks, or get too tipsy on champagne.

    Sadly the robot ambassador was then heard to say "Hand over your flesh, we demand it" before exploding the nuclear bomb in his head. Damn multi-LED faced monsters.
  • Obvious (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ChopSocky ( 556987 )
    I'm sure this will get modded down, but isn't this an obvious progression? Wouldn't governments jump all over this in order to prevent assassinations or other terror attempts on delegations? Even if the robots weren't completely autonomous, "messenger bots" would allow, in my opinion, high-level people to travel to unsecured locations safely. Just my .02.
    • Yes, the wetware version has been Donald Rumsfeld! It is a natural progression!
    • Re:Obvious (Score:5, Funny)

      by worst_name_ever ( 633374 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @01:06PM (#6773359)
      Even if the robots weren't completely autonomous, "messenger bots" would allow, in my opinion, high-level people to travel to unsecured locations safely.

      Or, to take your fanciful idea to an even more outlandish extreme, perhaps some kind of device for remote communication could be created, which would allow a person in one place to hold a conversation with another person in a far-off land, without actually dispatching a messenger or postal-letter. By harnessing the power of the electron-current, which as I'm sure you know is many dozens of times swifter than the fastest steam-ship, such tele-phonic conversations could be made possible. And, though it may seem to you, the gentle reader, to be the most outlandish type of science-fiction, perhaps this new tele-phonic science could be used by the captains of industry to contact the everyday citizen in their own homes at a convenient hour, such as at meal-time.

      Ah, truly, the wonders of our age shall know no bounds!

    • "Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi! You're my only hope!" ;-)
    • POP QUIZ- what costs more, replacing a diplomat or a humanoid asimo like robot..
      • I mean you gotta feed 'em and care for 'em and make sure they're comfortable in their 5-star hotels and eating their 5-star meals and so on and so forth. A robot, on the other hand, can be used for scrap parts when they're no longer useful to our cause... I mean, when they break down.
    • Something about robots and diplomats just don't mix right.

      Pardon me while I go watch Ghost in the Shell . . . oooh geisha bots. hax0r
  • Isaac Asimov (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dr. Jest ( 10116 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @12:43PM (#6773234)
    The robot's name is also an obvious tribute to Isaac Asimov, the science fiction writer who gave us the Three Laws of Robotics. I'd think the article would have mentioned that, but I guess the reporter is sadly SF illiterate.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      For those not in the know:

      A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

      A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders conflict with the first law.

      A robot must wear a pink felt hat and pimp gay men on the street so long as it doesn't conflict with the 1st or 2nd laws.

    • Re:Isaac Asimov (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 23, 2003 @12:58PM (#6773310)
      The Three Laws of Robotics are:

      1. A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
      2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
      3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

      From Handbook of Robotics, 56th Edition, 2058 A.D., as quoted in I, Robot. In Robots and Empire (ch. 63), the "Zeroth Law" is extrapolated, and the other Three Laws modified accordingly:

      A robot may not injure humanity or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

      Unlike the Three Laws, however, the Zeroth Law is not a fundamental part of positronic robotic engineering, is not part of all positronic robots, and, in fact, requires a very sophisticated robot to even accept it.

      Asimov claimed that the Three Laws were originated by John W. Campbell in a conversation they had on December 23, 1940. Campbell in turn maintained that he picked them out of Asimov's stories and discussions, and that his role was merely to state them explicitly.

      The Three Laws did not appear in Asimov's first two robot stories, "Robbie" and "Reason", but the First Law was stated in Asimov's third robot story "Liar!", which also featured the first appearance of robopsychologist Susan Calvin. (When "Robbie" and "Reason" were included in I, Robot, they were updated to mention the existence of the first law and first two laws, respectively.) Yet there was a hint of the three laws in "Robbie", in which Robbie's owner states that "He can't help being faithful, loving, and kind. He's a machine - made so." The first story to explicitly state the Three Laws was "Runaround", which appeared in the March 1942 issue of Astounding Science Fiction.

      Information borrowed liberally from the Isaac Asimov FAQ [clark.net].

    • Asimov is not mentioned from the ASIMO website. ASIMO stands for "Advanced Step in Innovative MObility." I would hope that it is an in-house tribute, but there is no public mention of it. For legal reasons, I'm sure...
    • ...with a nice bouquet of flowers [yahoo.com].

      I find this at once sweet, silly, and entertaining. Still, maybe he'll visit a monument to Asimov one day and bring even nicer flowers.

  • by grug0 ( 696014 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @12:45PM (#6773247) Journal
    Soon they'll be churning out small, cheap, efficient politicians that will take the jobs of American politicians. Washington will end up like Detroit.
  • Remember back in the early 80's you had a big robot craze with that one even showing up in one of the rocky movies as a butler? This is a nice technology preview, but people keep expecting robots to suddently be cost-effective for your average family and make life so easy for them. It's just not going to happen anytime soon. Let's start a poll on how long it will take for something like that to happen! 10 years? 20? 30?
    • Shit, that would be scary.

      With all of our manufacturing being outsourced to cheap Asian and South American countries with less stringent labor policies, America and many other countries are essentially left as solely service-oriented. If many of these services can be performed by autonomous robots, what's left? I think we'll see some sort of "autonomous robot tax" that will make these things cost ludicrous amounts of money.

      I don't think Johnny Five will be around too soon.
    • For the average family.


      Because long long before they are cost effective for domestic use, general purpose robots will be cost effective for businesses, putting the average family on the unemployment line.

      By the time general purpose robotics become available to the average family, the term "cost effective" will have no real meaning.

  • by mikeophile ( 647318 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @12:48PM (#6773265)
    I have a brain the size of a planet and all you want me to do is recognize voices, follow simple instructions, and do the occasional dance.

    Life. Don't talk to me about life.

  • Wow (Score:3, Informative)

    by teko_teko ( 653164 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @12:49PM (#6773266) Homepage
    Just saw the videos [honda.com] of the robot climbing the stairs and walking backwards. It's awesome, didn't think something like this can be accomplished in the current time.

    When will they start making C3PO?
    • Re:Wow (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      When will they start making C3PO?

      Good God, hopefully never.

    • When will they start making C3PO?

      As soon as the demand for gay-bots reaches critical mass.

    • "robot climbing the stairs and walking backwards."

      If only the folks at OCP had paid more attention to this while developing the ED-209...
    • I've watched this damned robot climb stairs ever since they built it. Oooh. Ahhh. Up the stairs. Down the stairs. In slow motion, while fantasy techno music plays, as if this robot walking up the stairs is going to solve world hunger.

      A similar bit of footage on my website, featuring me climbing up and down stairs to the theme song from "Beyond 2000," has been surprisingly unpopular. Sure, if a damned robot does it it's special. Will we cheer and marvel when they take all our jobs?

      More information

      • "I've watched this damned robot climb stairs ever since they built it. Oooh. Ahhh. Up the stairs. Down the stairs. In slow motion, while fantasy techno music plays, as if this robot walking up the stairs is going to solve world hunger."

        I don't seem to recall ending hunger as the mission of this robot. While you're thinking of reasons not to like this thing, I've been a little more productive. In a few years, these things will be visiting disaster sites looking for survivors. They've already got robots
    • As soon as a gaydar jammer is built.
    • To hell with C3PO. I want Cherry 2000!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 23, 2003 @12:51PM (#6773275)
    But humanoid robots still have only limited uses, like for entertainment or publicity stunts.

    Current technology may limit them to diplomatic missions and Al Gore stand-ins, but they won't sit still for long. Soon these abominations may even be able to pull off kids parties! And let me tell you, once they learn secret of making balloon poodles, overlord status will soon follow.
  • by Alien Being ( 18488 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @12:51PM (#6773276)
    Japanese PM Koizumi introduced Asimo to the president of the US. Upon hearing the word "Bush-san" the robot promptly puked its guts out all over the world's most powerful man.
  • by The-Bus ( 138060 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @12:58PM (#6773304)
    Give the fact that the robot is made by Honda I can't wait until Asimo Si comes out -- tricked out with yellow stickers, purple neon lights inside his head, and a kickin system to play the latest Eminem collaboration with 50 Cent.

  • It was nice to see Japanese robot actually speak in Czech. He even apperared at the begining of the main TV news, when he said his greeting to population and not just the ruling few.

    I was hoping to get to the show in national museum, but unfortunatelly, it was reserved only to journalists.

    • It's a recording dude. His handler pushed the button when it was time for him to say his little speech. He can 'speak' in any language he wants. You make it sound like the robot thought it would be a nice gesture if he spoke in Czech instead of his native Japanese.
      • In fact, from what I've heard, Asimo isn't autonomous at all. Every single motion is preprogrammed, so e.g. he can climb stairs, but only a specific set of stairs that it's been programmed for, all it can do is play back preprogrammed movements. So maybe it's a nice feat of electrical/mechanical engineering, but it actually has nothing to do with what makes a 'real' robot, i.e. acting autonomously, adapting to its environment or any other AI like stuff.
  • I read this, and the first thing I thought was, "Hello. I am C-3PO, human-cyborg relations, and I am I at your service."
  • so... (Score:2, Funny)

    ...did the czechs [for one] welcome our new experimental humanoid masters?

  • We wont fall for that one!

    Its a secret killer robot , which the Japanese prime minister uses as a bodyguard.
  • by BitwizeGHC ( 145393 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @01:05PM (#6773352) Homepage
    Does this mean that protocol droids (a la C-3PO) are now a reality?
    • "Does this mean that protocol droids (a la C-3PO) are now a reality? "

      No. But they're a plausibility. Sorry to sound nitpicky but we're a long way from getting to something C-3PO'esque. We haven't quite gotten the 'real time translation of spoken word to an alternative language' bit yet. It's being developed, but it's significantly harder to do than a walking robot.

      Would I be surprised to see protocol droids 10 years from now? I'd be startled, but only because it would still feel a little soon. Bu
  • I for one welcome our new Honda overlords
  • I'm impressed. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @01:18PM (#6773414) Homepage
    Asimo is a beautiful piece of work. It took ten years and three previous models to get this far.

    There are four major humanoid robot projects; Honda, Sony, Waseba University, and a Korean company that keeps a low profile. MIT also has a project, but it's not in the same league.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @01:19PM (#6773418) Homepage Journal
    We send Our Robot [whitehouse.gov] out on diplomatic tour from time to time, and it never makes slashdot!
  • Robotnik != Robots (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Interesting reference to Rossums' Universal Robots. People used to call them "automatons". Robots in the author of the the play's sense are really specially created humans designed to follow orders and work hard. Perhaps with our ever growing work weeks and globalized work force, we are turning ourselves into Robotniks.
    • Perhaps with our ever growing work weeks and globalized work force, we are turning ourselves into Robotniks.

      As long as we don't have any of those pesky blue hedgehogs snooping around, I don't think it's a big problem.
  • Dinner (Score:4, Funny)

    by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @01:24PM (#6773438) Journal

    , Asimo even attended the official dinner. Apparently

    You forgot to add that he drank a case of beer and belched flames. Called on his questionable behavior, he turned to the Czech ambassador and instructed him to "bite my shiny metal ass".

    The Prime Minister apologized, informing guests that the diplomacy subroutines hadn't been quite worked out yet.

    • I think he woulda gone native
      bite my shiny metal ass- zahryzni sa mi do mojej lesklej ritky
    • "...he turned to the Czech ambassador and instructed him to "bite my shiny metal ass."

      Rumor has it that Asimo momentairly opened his moon roof to facilitate the request.
  • I, for one, welcome our new diplomatic experimental human robot overlords!

  • I for one welcome our new robot overlords!
  • A Press Photo of Asimo vamping for the camera in Prague can be seen here:

    http://www.sfgate.com/news/pictures/2003/08/22/rob ot7.jpg [sfgate.com]
  • CNN summary (details gleaned from here [cnn.com]):

    Once Asimo arrived, he was telling jokes, greeting people, made a champagne toast, and then joked that he couldn't drink any himself because he's underage. Asimo also apparently speaks "perfect Czech", something I find interesting given that most robots kinda suck at talking. This article doesn't mention anything about Asimo's technical details, and while I've read stuff about Honda's robotics division before, I don't recall any mention of speech technology. Does
  • Just for these who'd like to know, the word Robot comes from the czech word 'Robota' which means the hard compulsive labor that peasants were forced to do on the land of their feaudal lords. Just to give you a little context when the name of Karel Capek was mentioned as author of the word.

    BTW One little fact about Karel Capek that could be interesting here is that this author had a vocabulary about 10 times of an average person. And his book are extremly influential in many more areas.
  • Five years ago I visited Prague. Not only was the term 'Robot' created by a Czech - The first mythological robot was created there too.

    Rabbi Loew's Golem [google.ca] was a robot. I had heard the myth before but did not realize that Rabbi Loew had lived relatively recently - in the 16th century, during the same time Kepler lived in Prague.

    Embedded on Rabbie Lowe's tomb is the encrypted hebrew that describes how to 'wake up' the Golem if needed. I saw the tomb in person and I wonder if anyone has tried to make sens

  • ASIMO tour in USA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jacobdp ( 698004 )
    Yeah, ASIMO is currently on "tour" in the US. They were in Boston recently.

    The presentation, IMHO, sucked. And I mean really sucked.

    It was staged like a rock concert, with REALLY loud music and far too many flashing lights. Designed for the modern child! (*cough*ADHD*cough*) Then they brought in the robot itself, and protrayed it as an AI. It's remote controlled, but the actress (who was sort of annoying anyway) talked to it as if it was a human. I mean, please. It's a seriously awesome feat of engineerin
  • heh (Score:2, Funny)

    by ShadowRage ( 678728 )
    I cant wait for it to suddenly just sit there when it's told to follow and say "I'm sorry Junichiro, I'm afraid I can't do that."
  • Sigh, feeling old all of a sudden...

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern