Talk of the Town - Baby 'bot March 12 2003

Most 2-year-olds are too busy learning to talk to tour the U.S. Of course, most 2-year-olds aren't 4 feet tall and more than 100 pounds.

ASIMO (short for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) was just a twinkle in Honda's eye (yep, the people behind the Civic) when development began in 1986. The first completely independent, bipedal humanoid walking robot was born (well, completed) in October 2000 after extensive research and testing of several clunkier models.

ASIMO was created to be a people-helper — maybe a housecleaner, or a caretaker for someone in a wheelchair. But at the moment, he's on an educational tour of science museums around the country. Honda executives hope students who experience the robot up-close will be encouraged to study science and math.

He'll demonstrate his ability to interpret the postures and gestures of humans, and walk around at his 1-mph pace. But don't try to talk to him; for now, ASIMO only knows Japanese. And watch out for those terrible 2s.

Public ASIMO demonstrations: March 15, 11:30 a.m., 1:30 and 3 p.m.; March 16, 12:30, 2:30 and 4 p.m. SciTrek, 395 Piedmont Ave. 404-522-5500. www.asimo.honda.com.