Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Weird Science: The Uncanny Valley

Perhaps, not so unrealistic?

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.

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.

I think our computer generation has given us a strange relationship with computers because we expect them to follow our every need (hurry up, why are you running so slow?) and we get freaked out when the internet goes down. We don't know how much we need this communications hub until we lose it. We aren't in love with the computer, but with what it does for us. So, the concept of creating a maid robot that looks like an actual human is redundant. We want someone to clean the place, we don't care about the machine - only that it's running.

Hopefully, we do not transfer our trust to something that has no personality, unpredictability and spontaneity or ability to reciprocate.

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