in climbing toward the goal of making robots appear human, our affinity for them increases until we come to a valley, which I call the uncanny valley
The uncanny valley is the reason why those life-like robots just look so wrong, and why humans feel a certain level of repulsion when dealing with these robots. So to that end, here are a couple of links relating to bridging the uncanny valley.
- Some thoughts on why we are so freaked out by the uncanny valley
- Researchers have developed a FACE that aims to bridge the gap. Close, but oh so far
If there is going to be one culture to bridge the uncanny valley, it will likely be the Japanese. Robots are a very big part of Japanese culture, permeating many aspects of daily life. Japan faces an ageing population, declining birth rate, and low immigration rate, and robots are gradually picking up the slack in the workforce, particularly in care-giving industry.
- An early article speculating on the role of robots in caring for Japan’s elderly, that maybe hasn’t been fully realized, yet, but maybe soon.
- If ever we get to the point of having in house robot helpers, would you get undressed in front of the robo-help?
One way to combat the uncanny valley is to keep the robots unseen, and the transportation industry is leading the way.
- There are fully autonomous cars in development, and could be on the road by the end of the decade
- And robot driven planes could be on the way too
- All of which will raise some interesting ethical questions
Perhaps the best way to overcome the uncanny valley is through children. Efforts to make people more accepting of robots should begin early.
- Computer animated films have the potential to help kids to learn to accept the uncanniness of certain figures
- The Furby is back, and a great Radiolab story uncovers that kids actually have empathy for the creepy toy
- And great films, like this short by Spike Jonze called I’m Here, are a great way for people to gain empathy and ultimately acceptance of robots…that and seeing them dance.