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Crossing the Uncanny Valley

Science Not Fiction
By Stephen Cass
Aug 6, 2008 2:05 AMNov 5, 2019 1:00 AM


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Bill Christensen over on Technovelgy has a story and a bunch of links about a new emotive robot being demonstrated in the UK, the Heart Robot. The idea is that it can provide emotional feedback to small children. While it's not quite human-enough looking to ping my uncanny valley detector, it's still awfully creepy looking. Especially as it's mostly a loose limbed puppet, putting me in mind of nothing other than a dying goblin or somesuch. Now, while I'm in favor of children being exposed to a certain amount of useful scariness (e.g. listening to unsanitized fairy tales, or watching Doctor Who from behind the sofa), on the grounds that they deserve to be given some hint that world beyond their family's protective embrace can have some rough edges, being faced with a glowing monster that just wants to hold your hand in its own cold, dead, plastic fingers seems the stuff of nightmare. But, to be fair, the kids seem to take it in their stride. Hopefully they'll have learned some fear by the time we need them as soldiers in the coming war against the robots.

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