The next generation of Asimo, Honda's human-shaped robot, was unveiled yesterday in Tokyo, and the car manufacturer expects it to steal attention from the fast cars and super bikes at this year's motor expo.
"It's a further evolution of Asimo, so it's fantastic the robot is in Dubai," said William De Braekeleer, the head of public relations for Honda Europe.
"There are two main goals for Asimo. One is to have a robot that is able to operate in a human environment, and the other is to develop technology that can be applied to our other products," he said.
This version of Asimo, which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, boasts nimbler fingers. It can also run faster and balance on uneven surfaces.
The robot can also predict the direction a person will walk within the next few seconds based on pre-set space sensors, then quickly take an alternative path to avoid a collision.
Takanobu Ito, the Honda president, said yesterday that some of Asimo's technology was used to develop a robotic arm that could be used to help clean up the Fukushima nuclear plant damaged by the earthquake and tsunami in March. But Asimo itself would not be used at the Fukushima plant because it would be damaged by radiation.
Honda aims ultimately to build a robot that can be used for everyday purposes in the home and perform other tasks that are dangerous to humans, such as fighting fires or cleaning up toxic spills.
In a demonstration yesterday, Asimo was able to walk over bumps on the floor and run at 9kph, faster than the previous 6kph. Honda does not disclose how much it invests in developing Asimo, but the company spends 5 per cent of its turnover each year on research across all products.
"It's an ongoing research project and the steps Asimo has taken in greater autonomy and physical capabilities is exactly what we are producing on our show in Dubai," Mr De Braekeleer said.
Having first travelled to the Emirates in 2005, Asimo will be on show for the five-day Dubai motor show running from tomorrow until November 14 at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
It will be kicking footballs, dancing and independently collecting drinks from waiters at the show.
Asimo's appearance is perfectly timed to give a boost to the reputation of Al-Futtaim Honda, the exclusive distributor of the brand in the UAE.
Honda sales have stuttered this year after weak supply in the wake of the Japanese disaster and two product recalls, first for the Civic, then for the Accord. The brand has only about 65 per cent of its usual supply in the UAE.