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Honda's Robo-ambassador

2006-10-25 09:18

Dynamic duo - ASIMO and Marcel Pretorius

ASIMO, Honda's humanoid robot has a busy schedule planned for Auto Africa, with no less than 35 shows between October 26 and November 5. It will perform on average four times a day in the role of Honda's technology ambassador.

ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobilit), will demonstrate what makes it the most advanced humanoid robot of its kind in the world, with the ability to operate and perform a variety of tasks in a human environment.

About 1500 schoolchildren will get the chance to meet the 1,2-metre tall humanoid, and Honda South Africa has arranged special shows for younger members of the community. These include a group from Reach for a Dream at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

One of ASIMO's roles as an ambassador for Honda is to ignite an interest in science and technology amongst children. The robot recently took part for the second year in a row, in the Youth Engineering Summit in the United Kingdom, where it successfully highlighted the importance of these subjects to students.

Master of Ceremonies for the ASIMO shows is Marcel Pretorius, a 'qualified' magician with a range of skills including juggling and stilt walking. But, the dynamic 26-year-old is fast becoming better known for his role as one of the presenters of the educational television magazine programme, HIP2B².

This SABC2 programme focuses on mathematics, science and technology and presents the topics in a fun and interactive manner.

He has recently returned from the ASIMO Studio in Belgium, where he had an opportunity to meet the robot, and be trained in working with it.

"It has been a great experience so far, and I'm really looking forward to Auto Africa, and in particular acting as the conduit between ASIMO and the children," said Pretorius.

"Children in particular relate to ASIMO, because it is a bit like one of their friends in both how it looks and moves," he said.

"We've worked on a few specific routines; where it goes through its full repertoire, and I ask questions, to which it responds. We will also show a clip of a later version of the robot which is a bit taller and can run - we refer to it as its cousin," said Pretorius.

"ASIMO is a truly remarkable piece of engineering and technology, and I think adults and children alike will be fascinated by how advanced it is," he added.


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