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.)
How much of this is related the familiarity of the human subject with the robot? People can get used to a lot given some time.
I think there was a Twilight Zone episode to the effect. A man wrongfully imprisoned I think on an asteroid was given a female robot companion. When he had to leave she could not go with him and he was distraught, etc.
I wonder how much of the uncanny valley disappears over time once a greater familiarity is experienced by the humans.
To me, the "uncanny valley" is unavoidable when you see these humanoid robots that have the dead-eyed look that makes them look like they belong in a wax museum. I don't see how those types of robots can make humans feel comfortable--they are far too creepy. On the other hand, some of the robot-looking robots seem like they have great potential, but in my opinion, more for professional or commercial applications. I still can't see having some space-age robot in the home loading the dishwasher or folding laundry. Much as I'd like to offload those tasks, it's not doing it for me.
I have to say it would be better to see a robot that's designed for more functionality and less life like. Dead eyes/real eyes isn't as important to me as the ability to do the dishes, or clean off the table.
I hope they continue to design for greater and greater functionality and less and less life like focus. It's kind of like all the junk they add to my cell phone. Just get me a phone that doesn't drop calls. I don't care about all those other functions.
Beth, I can't see myself having humanoid robot doing housework for me either. Kind of reminds me of Rosie on the Jetsons. Although I'm sure if they were available and reasonably priced there would be a big market for them.
I agree. When robots start looking more like humans, that's not natural. I believe robots should have some-what of a warm gentle look like the MIT built robot named "Boxie" but shouldn't have physical attributes like humans. Robots are to serve human-kind not to replace them. Again, creepy is creepy.
The height/mass ratio undoubtedly creates a problem for humanoid robots. Hey, its a problem for us humanoid humans! But the humanoid robots certainly won't be warm and soft but cold and lumpy.
But, humanoid robots are a must if they are to be accepted and not feared in any society. And if they all just happen to look like Christie Brinkley, then we are on our way to a happy society- and buff!
But what happens when they look like Christie Brinkly but perform like a Terminator? Sounds like a cool plot for the Terminator VI (V is being made currently). A very pretty, curvy, girl but; "Underneath, it's a hyper alloy combat chassis-micro processor controlled. Fully Armored. Very tough." She then proceeds to rip the heads off of all the people around her. Per Kyle Reese; "It can't be barganed with; it can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, remorse, or fear. And it absolutly will not stop, EVER, until you are dead."
Sounds like a Predator drone to me, or one of my old girlfriends. No matter how soft, warm, or pretty they make a robot, they will never be a real woman.
It's only a matter of time that they (the govt) uses robots for that. They can't be any worse than the ones they employ now.
I always thought that the whole problem with being strip searched by the TSA wasn't WHAT they were doing but WHO was doing it. If I could pick my choice of who was going to grope me and the choice was an attractive Asian or Spanish girl (my particular preference) I would stand there long enough to miss my plane if it was necessary for safety of the flying public.
With all the possible threats coming this way to human beings, I say why not take a crash advanced robots and android development series of programs?
There is too much corruption within government in order to let them take control of everything.
I feel why not make factory starts to where companion robots and androids could be constructed on a scale similar to a large auto manufacture, so that almost anyone could afford to rent or own a robot or android.
The technology is there, it’s just that mankind’s social situation is based to where our collective decisions shy us away from innovations such as robot companions.
A robot or android companion is nothing more than an advance o.s platform that is a little more interactive, on a mobile base. There is chance here' but I would tend to say allow it.
Computer Technician with a good bit of experience in back of him
I understand about the dead eyed look. But I would think it might be far more unnerving to see a robot with really live looking eyes and a sinister sneer..... Remember WestWorlod with Yul Brenner? Creepiness aside, it is very easy for a robot to look menacing.
Watson AI and a humanoid form would require some getting used to but I think it can be done. We have to remove the creepiness through humor, good features and smiles and a soft tone of voice. The AI will have to go to a lot of effort to avoid anything that might be interpreted as menacing or even less than cheerfully subservient.
Maybe childlike would help? Obviously a big hulking robot with glaring bright eyes and a heavy voice would easily scare people. Maybe making them like little aliens with green or blue skin (helpful smurfs?) or something like that would offset the adverse effects?
Actually, I think there is some advantage to "dead eyes". Personnally, I don't want my machines looking too human. There is a danger that if tools become stand-ins for humans, there may be some unfortunate results.
The only issue with making robots, or any artifically intelligent machine, is that there will come a time when someone somewhere will make the wrong programming steps and then we will truly have something along the lines of Blade Runner, Cherry2000, Terminator, The Matrix, or AI. These stylized doomsday movies have even made it to the child level in G-Force.
All of that aside, I personally feel that too human like is a bad thing. The dead eye look for me would be a little unnerving, but that could be offset by allowing some LED color to glow around the eyes or something similar to that.
Similar to the example in the Twilight Zone post, the connection Tom Hank's character makes with the volleyball "Wilson" in Castaway, while fictional, is not far fetched and shows how we humanize inanimate objects. Animate objects are next I guess.
We connect with machines, like cars, motorcycles, hi fi's (my area of expertise), firetrucks, engines etc. We don't name machines that we care for and interact with "Old Betsy" for nothing. I notice that this seems to be a connection characterized mostly by men and machines, not women and machines. Yes, I know there are the exceptions. (I am not a sexist! No - really!)
I don't know if I want an overly familiar machine as an assistant. I think I want a robot to do tasks I want to outsource. If it has an attitude it should be one of subservience, not like "Bender" the bending robot in Futurama, who's attitude could lead me to commit a robotocide. I've heard him say, "Kill all humans" in his sleep. That worries me.
Something I noticed about the photo is that the humanoid robot wearing the necklace and blond hair seems amazingly real. It doesn't seem to have that "dead eye" problem. Who makes that one? Are they customizable?
The robot in the picture appears to be a NAO from http://www.aldebaran-robotics.com/. I recently saw a live demo at the FedEx Institute of Technology on the University of Memphis. It is very cute, fully programmable, fairly nimble, has a decent complement of front facing sensors. Marketed as a research platform, it is too small to do much useful real world work, but makes a great $9000 - $16000 toy for testing human reaction to humanoid shaped robots. Everyone I was with wanted one. It recognized its operators face and voice providing a personalized menu of voice activated options in concert with an invisible touch sensor on its head. Part of the demo was dancing to "Thriller". The 'ears' are decent speakers. It remained standing maintaining its balance despite mild attempts to push it over. When it was pushed over, it gracefully stood itself back up the way a human would in about 15 seconds using its hands to assist. It had pressure sensors in its rigid feet that helped it shuffle around obstacles it detected via chest sonar. 'Eyes' are IR receivers with RGB led 'mascara'. I was told it was smart enough not to walk off a ledge, but in this case the floor and table were both white so it could not distinguish between them. It seemed to take over a minute to boot up. The company seems eager to support its users in developing new routines for NAO. Apparently it plays soccer.
Robots should be purpose built, so a robot designed to deal exclusively with humans should at least be the right height with audio input/output at the level of the human head. I think ultimately, robots will be humanoid but there will be a learning curve for humanity to accept this form. Do we enjoy more ordering food at a drive-thru when they incorporate a caricature of a clown head rather than a dead speaker? I think we do.
Interesting point, Bob. Yet I believe excellence in function will ultimately be the test of acceptance in automated systems. A good example is Amazon or ATMs. They provide excellence in function and they are not humanoid. We now prefer them to human interaction in part because they are not human. They perform at a level of efficiency that is beyond a human bookseller or bank clerk.
Roboticist, is there really such a word...? Heathers creations are remarkably toy oriented...I don't feel inspired, or threatened by their existence..more amused...Now, when you start talking "Cyborg ", that's when it gets creepy...
Even if you're goal isn't to make a robot look human, its eyes are still the most important detail. There is something buried in our earliest DNA that says another being is in there if it has eyes that can lock to yours! We sense it in our pets no matter how small their brains may be.
I'm OK with robots among us, even highly intelligent ones, as long as they obey Asimov's 3 Laws of Robotics. But maybe I'm too easily impressed. Have you ever seen the dancing Elmo toy? He is fairly sophisticated and even picks himself up to stand on his two feet if purposefully knocked over (and yes, he lets you know that he does not like that, maybe that is a little creepy!). see link...Elmo gets up at 48 second mark.
If the intent is to replace a human then I think that they robot should sort of look human, but probably with different proportions. I have seen the "robot dog" running with the pack on it's back, and it was a bit strange looking because it had no head. I like industrial robots because they are tools that look like tools, and there is no confusion there. Their appearance is also a constant reminder of how dangerous they can be when they move quickly.
The humanoid looking robots, even the "cute" ones, and the pretty ones, all seem a bit creepy because I understand that their behavior is programmed by programmers, and I am aware that the thought processes of most programmers are somewhat abnormal, at best.
But if you want something really creepy, spend a day alone working in an area with a bunch of crash dummys sitting against a wall just outside of where you are focused. They move around when they think you aren't looking, which is really creepy, since they don't have faces.
In a human-to-human conversation, body language has always added nuances to the interchange of the subject at hand, whether it be discussing an engineering problem or trying to hit on a lady at a social gathering. But, more and more, with increasing use of email and other non-verbal, non vis a vis contact, the actual humanity of person-to-person communication is diminishing. With that in mind, for robots that must communicate with humans, and certainly, the younger generation attuned to texting, etc., does it make any difference if robots are humanoid or not? Just wondering....
Looking at the slideshow, one could posit that there's a cultural influence on the type of robot a nation tends to build. Americans are looking downward (Roomba) or very industrially focused. The Japanese robots have an altogether different focus, one which is both very future directed (sci-fi influence) but also unusual to say the least. As the HMI on robots evolves, it'll be interesting to see how and to what extent the aesthetic influences the functionality and vice versa.
Yes, the U.S. robots and definitely more industrial. The Japanese robots, on the other hand, are definitely humanoid and often tend to be female. For what it's worth, I've yet to see anyone build a robot that has decidely male characteristics.
I find the fascination with humanoid robots odd. We don't need automation that resembles the human body. ATMs are one of the most successful human-replacement gizmos. Yet it doesn't resemble the human body in the least. The robotic welder doesn't look human.
Regarding the chosen female form factor. I have long thought that some of the Japanese roboticists seem to be in the process of trying to create nothing less than the equivalent of a robotic concubine.
There will come a day, probably in this century, when robots will look and act and may even be indistinguishable in appearances from human beings. Some will be humans reinstantiated as androids by capturing the human connectome and simulating it hardware. Some will be strictly AI androids without human emotions.Some will be smarter than humans and some worker-bee androids will be not so smart but versatile enough to work on assembly lines. We will just have to get used to it because it will happen.
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.
I am amazed that nobody has commented on myremark about human-looking robots in the "adult" entertainment industry. And as for folks not being willing to accept human looking robots, really, just consider that no matter what they look like their entire phisiology is totally different from ours. We would not be "brothers under the skin", way more than just a different species.
Ramjet, certainly not everybody would be able to comment about every aspect, that is true. I have worked in a job-shop where several co-workers were "experts".
And as for how human does the robot need to appear, your response equates quite closely to the "form follows function" assertion that we have heard for a wole lot of years. Really an assertion of value engineering, why add stuff not needed to do the job correctly, which certainly makes a lot of sense.
As I read this phrase "uncanny valley," there's a curious analogy with the synthesis of musical-instrument sounds:
Back in the old days of Moog (and similar) analog synthesis (roughly in the late '60s to early '80s), people were able to create surprisingly accurate imitations of orchestral instruments. These were generally regarded as impressive. Gradually, the technology improved over time, to using sampling and physical modeling (actually running a real-time simulation of waves moving through an air column or string). By any objective measure, these simulations of orchestral instruments are *vastly* more accurate than the analog-synthesizer simulations that were generally perceived as impressive.
However, people perceive them - or some of them and some people at least - quite the opposite: They sounded dreadful! Why? Because these sounds went from the realm of "impressive imitations" to the realm of "awful-sounding real instruments"! They were enough better that they invited the same kind of scrutiny that we would put on real performers of real instruments. No performer of a violin, clarinet, horn, or bassoon, say, would ever strive to sound like these imitations!
Analogously, if you look at a humanoid robot whose face is clearly intended to be a cartoon representation of humans, then if they are otherwise impressive enough in their capabilities, then people will react positively. However, if you try to make them have realistic skin, realistic expressions, etc., people will start scrutinizing them the same way we scrutinize real people. By that benchmark, these robots look really awful, and give a negative impression. That, even though, by any objective measure, they are *vastly* more life-like!
The slides show a series of overpriced make do remote controlled toys for study.
We need inexpensive, fully dexterous, ambulatory, disposable robots (slave) to take humans out of harms way. ie: nurse in the ebola hospital, radiation cleanup workers in japan, specialist doctors half way around the world, solders / peace keepers, bomb / land mines disposal personal, and so much more.
These are possible today, except for the ego's getting in the way.
These are not autonomous, but human controlled. Skynet without the evil computer control.
George Leopold's talk at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis helped restore astronaut and engineer Gus Grissom's role in the beginnings of NASA, and outlined how Grissom played a pivotal role in winning the Space Race.
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