Uncanny Valley – creepy robots

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Uncanny Valley phenomenon was first introduced by the Japanese professor, Mori Masahiro in the 1970s. It is a hypotetical eplanation of why we find some humanoid robots creepy.

Uncanny Valley

What does “Uncanny Valley” mean exactly?

This definition describes people’s feelings in connection with humanoid robots. As human likeness increases, our affinity towards robots increases too. However, there is a certain point, where our feelings change. Those robots that are close to human, but not perfectly, can be creepy or frightening. Let’s take a look at some samples. First, we should travel back in time!

Robot Robi was a very famous Hungarian humanoid robot in the 1960s. It walked on the streets of Budapest. It could talk and it had some basic gestures.

The robot had a cubic shape. It had eyes and something similar to a mouth and ears. But it was very far from a real human.

Children love this robot, and it soon became a “salesperson” in a toy shop in Budapest. Robot Robi was developed and built by Daniel Muszka, the genius Hungarian engineer.

Let’s come back to our days.

Nao, the programmable humanoid robot was developed and built by a French robotics company called Aldebaran. Nao robot has legs, arms, it can talk, walk and even dance. It has rotund shapes. This robot more similar to a real person than Robot Robi, but it is still a cute little robot.

Pepper robot, robotics, robotika

Pepper robot was also designed by Aldebaran (the company later became a part of Softbank Robotics, a big Japanese corporation). It is more human-like that the previous robots. Pepper can also talk, walk, dance and gesticulate. Both Nao and Pepper have face recognition, so they can follow faces. However, these robots are still cute and lovely.

Robots close to the uncanny valley

Sophia. The big robotics corporation, Hanson Robotics developed Sophia, a social robot powered by AI. It has similar abilities than Pepper and Nao. However it has a really human-like face. Sophia can be easily mistaken to be a real person. However it talk like a chatbot and can’t move like a real person. That can be confusing or creepy sometimes. That’s why we could say that Sophia is very close to the uncanny valley. However, she is funny and cute, if we make a conversation (just watch Showbotics video linked below).

Robotics experts’ aim is to make robots that are perfect human. Actually, there is no robot that is a 100% Homo sapiens.

IEEE Spectrum; Híradó.hu; Tonight Showbotics: Jimmy Meets Sophia the Human-Like Robot; National Geographic; Hanson Robotics