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« Poorer and Uglier Every Day | Main | Hope for Human Nature »

July 03, 2006


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Why do the Japanese even bother with putting skin or their robots? After all, it was a Japanese scientist who coined the term "the uncanny valley". I know I would rather interact with a robot that looks like a robot, than that goulish looking "woman".

Michael Deering

"Why do the Japanese even bother with putting skin or their robots?"

Most don't. If they all did, then that would be a valid question. Robots will come in all varieties that can be imagined. I work in a machine shop so I interact with robots all the time, the kind that don't look like people. I would rather interact with a robot that looks like a human. That makes us different. This is no big surprise. People are different. Robots will be different. Why do some people get body piercings? Why do some people want to be vampires? Why do some people want to live on other planets as mermaids? What a silly question.


While it is certainly true that Honda, Sony et al. have not attempted to drape their robots in skin, most articles about attempts to put skin on robots are about work done in Japan. There was also one I read about that was made in South Korea. I wonder it there is some kind of east/west difference at play. In America, workers treat robots as a threat to their livelihoods; so the more it looks like a tool the better. It is then just a tool you use to do your job, rather than a mechanical-man that takes your job. In Japan auto workers have treated robots as partners. In a smaller country with an aging population, the use of robots is even more needed to amplify the workforce.

When it comes to looking like people, I don't have a problem with a robot that looked 100% human. It is when they hover at 90-95% that they kind of creep me out, especially when they smile. Human-like bipeds that are all metallic or plastic, like the one on the Asimov cover above, are more achievable with current technology than something 100%. A metal face with suitably expressive eyebrow servos is just more appealing to me, compared to one with a skin that folds in an expression more resembling agony than a smile.


(mike deering: it was an outlandish example!)
I'm not sure Repliee is that good, without a picture of the original. I am sure however that the type of face matters only to the beholder, not to any intelligence inside. Skin on robots hopefully helps develop the intelligence inside, including the ability to express nonverbal cues. So it's perfectly understandable why the Japanese, who love robots (Westerners put 'bots in the Frankenstein/Golem category; for that the Japanese originally had bishounen), do this: their robots are meant to fill up jobs & to be caretakers, with which patients/elderly had better be able to communicate with.


Great news and a thoughtful post -- While I am with you on your conclusions about Repliee, I will look forward to following this one. Thanks. Ellen

Brain Based Business


Can someone please explain the difference between this "female" robot with rubber skin and one of Disney's animatrons?

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