It looks like a mini astronaut and walks as if it is on tiptoes (despite lacking them) as if it doesn't want to draw too much attention. Make no mistake, however, Honda wants you to feel comfortable around its ASIMO (Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility) humanoid robot. The company understands that if androids are to play an integral role in the future of the human race (and justify Honda's substantial investment in the technology), they are going to need social skills to keep the "creepiness" factor at bay.

At the Ars Electronica 2010 festival this week in Linz, Austria, Honda is offering people attending the event the opportunity to interact directly with a 130-centimeter tall, 54-kilogram ASIMO humanoid robot [standing in a green circle in the image above]. The company then plans to study the results of these interactions and use the results to guide development of future versions of ASIMO. "People need to be able to comfortably communicate with the robot so that it can react properly to their commands and carry out their wishes when assistance is needed," Satoshi Shigemi, large project leader of ASIMO development at Honda R&D Co., Ltd., said in a press release describing the event.

Honda is not the only organization studying how to forge long-term, constructive bonds between robots and humans. ALIZ-E, a four-and-a-half-year, $10.6-million project funded by the European Commission, seeks to do this by creating a system that enables robots to store and recall information, and to modify their behavior based on previous experience. San Raffaele Hospital in Milan is hoping to study this programming by using robots in the rehabilitation of young patients.