78 SERVO 03.2014
Honda's Asimo is a great
example of a humanoid robot that is
formed in a manner acceptable to
humans. It is clearly a robot and not
a human look-alike. The series of
Gundam mechas first seen in the
1979 Japanese TV series, Mobile Suit
Gundam inspired many of the Honda
engineers to start the creation of a
truly functional humanoid robot that
they later called Asimo. Its
evolutionary path is shown in
One might wonder exactly
how a company begins the long
road to such an amazing product
as a functional humanoid robot.
The first step (no pun intended)
would be to perfect the bipedal
robot's walking ability. From 1986
to 1993, Honda evolved the "E"
series — E-0 through E- 6 — to
perfect the mechanisms and
dynamic balancing. I personally
believe there could not be a
better ambassador for the
acceptance of robots than the
humanoids Asimo and Hubo.
Acceptance of Non-Humanoid Robots
I've perused the humanoid
robots that are intended to look
human and have met (or missed) the
curve of the Uncanny Valley.
I'd now like to look at robots
intended to work alongside humans
that don't look a bit like people. It is
these industrial and service robots
that first gave humans a bit of
uneasiness back in the 1960s.
Figure 15 is a cartoon by
cartoonist Ron Cobb that first
appeared in various magazines back
in 1968. Of course, it is intended to
be humorous, but many college
graduates do wonder just how they
will fit into newer industries that are
rapidly accepting all types of
Money is always the bottom line
in any business, and management is
always striving to lower costs of the
complete business process from
design and manufacturing, to
advertising and sales.
The Wall-Ye Robot
for the Wine
No, I didn't make a mistake or
confuse the robot with the animated
Wall-E robot from the Pixar film that
grossed over a half billion dollars.
The development of Wall-Ye is aimed
at struggling vineyards around the
world trying to be competitive in the
presence of rising labor costs.
Though not a wine connoisseur,
I happened to find myself purchasing
and serving many hundreds of cases
of wine as the operations manager of
a chamber music festival that served a
lot of it. I rapidly learned about the
many types of wine, the high costs of
quality wines, and just how difficult it
is to bring the wine from grape to
Wine is not just fermented grape
juice. It is the basic fermented fruit
product that is combined with many
thousands of chemical compounds
that may be present — from several
percent to just a few parts per billion.
It is these components and the careful
production processes that make each
wine so distinctive from another.
Most jobs within a winery
demand carefully acquired skills, but
one of the most critical job functions
is in the vineyard. The pruning and de-suckering of the vines and removing
Figure 16. Wall-Ye vineyard pruning robot.
Figure 15. A 1968 illustration of robots taking over by Ron Cobb.