The term "uncanny valley," which refers to the revulsion that humans feel when they see a humanoid robot, has lately been a topic of heated discussion among design engineers, who are increasingly building robots that walk and talk.
More than ever, engineers need to consider the effects on humans as their machines begin to creep into our territory. "If you're going to make your robot human-like, then you've got to make it really, really human," said Tim Root, founder and chief technology officer of VGo Communications Inc., a robot manufacturer, in a recent interview with Design News. "If you miss that, your form factor will be rejected."
Looking at the following slides, it's easy to see how robots are evolving, not only in their ability to do human tasks, but in their appearance. Whether or not they're starting to give us the creeps is another matter, one that varies from person to person.
Click on the image below to start viewing the 16-image slideshow. When you're done, tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Heather Knight, a roboticist and founder of Marilyn Monrobots, is trying to bridge the uncanny valley by adding humor to the robotic repertoire. Her robot, Data, can do imitations of Darth Vader, R2D2, and Buzz Lightyear. (Photo courtesy of Freescale Semiconductor.)
Those robots that look human are certainly quite novel, and probably a real source of potential danger. Just as the real animal winds up being thought of in terms of the cartoon creature, ("Bullwinkle Moose"), but in reality is nothing like it, so the human looking robots will be constantly sending the wrong message. This is why industrial robots look like industrial robots: They are far less likely to accidentally rip your head off, which they are really capable of doing, by the way.
So a human looking robot really is a creepy thing, since the actual entity is nothing like the person presented. Probably the most successful application for human looking robots would be in the "Adult entertainment" industry. I am not suggesting that it is a good idea, just pointing out the nature of the problem.
Are they robots or androids? We're not exactly sure. Each talking, gesturing Geminoid looks exactly like a real individual, starting with their creator, professor Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University in Japan.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.