Welcome to uncanny valley

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Have you ever looked at a human-like robot or animated character and felt a bit uneasy? If you have, you are not alone ─ you are just in the uncanny valley.

The uncanny valley as described by Masahiro Mori
By Alison Gardner, account executive at Stone Junction

The term uncanny valley was first coined by robotics professor Masahiro Mori in 1970. It is defined as a characteristic dip in human emotional response that happens when we see something that is almost human, but not quite human enough.

Robots increase in familiarity as they become more human. We feel comfortable around humanoid robots that have a mechanical appearance, such as Star Wars’ C-3PO. However, as a robot becomes more realistic, it becomes more familiar — but only to a certain extent.

When human likeness is too strong in a robot, acceptance suddenly drops. We become very uneasy around the technology, which creates the valley. For example, we feel uneasy around ventriloquists’ dolls, due to their human resemblance.

Why is this an issue?

As robots become more intelligent, we will interact with them more often. However, the appearance of humanoids influences our perception of them and consequently our behaviour. If we cannot trust robots that we feel uneasy around, we will not be taking full advantage of technology.

Developers need to consider the implications of uncanny valley and discover exactly where the drop from familiarity lies. Then, they can design more likeable robots that can help us in day to day life, from customer service roles to doctors’ assistants.

At Stone Junction, we keep up to date with trends in the industry to make sure our content is topical and creative. For more information about what we do, get in touch on 01785 225 416 or e-mail me at alison@stonejunction.co.uk. 

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