Uncanny Valley

(Wikipedia) The "uncanny valley" hypothesis holds that when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. The "valley" in question is a dip in a proposed graph of the positivity of human reaction as a function of a robot's life-likeness. This hypothesis was created by a robot-maker, Masahiro Mori.

Basically, it is the point at which a person observing the creature or object in question sees something that is nearly human, but just enough off-kilter to seem eerie or disquieting.

Have you ever seen a wax museum figure of say, Princess Di, but there’s something just a little bit off about the proportions of expression that makes it just wrong.

Have you seen those awful commercials where they use actors but the “cartoon” them up just slightly? Does it give you the shivers?

Ever see a video game where the animated characters are so human like, you have to study them closely to realize they aren’t and when you find that not-human aspect of them, they suddenly make you uncomfortable?

Ever seen a dog look at a stuffed dog and bark and get very upset, even though the doll is very dog-like?

Those are all examples of the uncanny valley.

Future development of robots might just depend on that brilliant theory. Just look at the two robots above? Would the one little guy be like having an adorable helpful pet? Would the other be like having a human without a soul nearby?

With the exception of lonely nerds wanting a dream girlfriend in their home, the sale-ability of near-human robots looks very iffy. Personally, I'd like to think of a robot as a helpful machine. I don't want it to be human-like. I don't want to make an emotional connection with it. I don't want to transfer my bonding I should have with a living breathing being to a mechanical creation. It would be like talking to my vacuum cleaner and expecting it to care about me in return.


  1. wow, i had never heard of that term, but i certainly have had those emotions when seeing these facsimiles.

  2. Yeah, I stumbled across it. It made perfect sense to me why wax figures and life-like robots just turn me off.

  3. I guess maybe a robot just needs to be a robot. I know if I ever got my own Cylon, it would need to have the robotic voice and the oscillating red eye. I mean, it just wouldn't be cool without the oscillating red eye. It would be like someone inventing lightsabers....but not sounding like they do in the movies.

  4. Hey Jeff;
    Yeah, I personally would want the one from "Lost in Space," but I'm a purist. :-)


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