Honda announced the latest Asimo humanoid robot at its plant in Tokyo today. Almost a year to the day that the previous Asimo was shown off, the latest generation is a faster and more capable robot than its predecessor, Honda says.

According to its press release, Honda has "been pursuing research and development of a truly useful humanoid robot which possesses both intelligence and physical capabilities at a high level".

It's twice as fast as the last Asimo in terms of running speed - 6kph as opposed to 3kph. The walking speed is 0.2kph faster at 2.7kph and the Asimo can also run in a circular pattern at 5kph - achieved by tilting the Asimo's centre of gravity - though why this would be in any way useful Honda does not say.

What definitely could be useful, though, is that Asimo is now capable of working as a receptionist or tour guide. It can also carry objects using a cart, or carry a tray of drinks by co-ordinating the use of its eye camera and a kinesthetic sensor in its wrist.

Asimo can recognise its surrounding environment with visual, ultrasonic and floor surface sensors as well as with the aid of a proprietary IC (integrated circuit) Tele-interaction Communication Card. This is a card that allows Asimo to recgonise the location and identity of its handler no matter where they stand in a 360-degree range.

Weighing 54kg (around 8st 7lbs) and standing 130cm (4ft 2in) the Asimo will begin operating in spring 2006 at Honda's Wako building. After that, there are plans to lease it out.