Asimo, the most sophisticated Japanese humanoid, is famous for its balance and adaptability. It can even run, in an awkward, distinctively robotic way. But if it encounters a closed door, the show's over, because the calculations necessary to reach out, grasp the knob, turn it, and walk forward, pushing the door ahead of itself, are still too complicated. (The fragility doesn't end there. "Our products can survive a two-story fall," Angle says. "See what happens with an Asimo.") Japan has embraced Asimo, however, as a broad, long-term investment in a wide range of scientific challenges, from materials science to artificial intelligence. It's not a robo-butler. It's a stake in the ground, a totem of Japan's belief that our future will be full of helpful, sentient, Japanese-made machines.