Sunday, May 14, 2006

Life-like robot MC

There are 3 basic aproaches as to the appearance of a robot: Don`t try to make it look life-like, try to make it somewhat life-like, or try to make it very life-like. The problem with option one is that people tend not to interact with something that is obviously a machine, or at least, their interactions are not very deep. Option two has the so-called "uncanny valley effect" where at first people think that the robot is organic but then, they realise that it is a machine, and the fact that the machine looks partially life-like makes them feel uneasy. The problem with the third option is that it is very difficult to make a robot look very life-like and if it fails, it runs the risk of falling into the uncanny-valley problem mentioned above. If it succeeds it runs into another problem - if a robot looks completely realistic then people will expect realistic behaviour; if your robot looks exactly like a cat, you had better make sure it can do all the things a cat can do, otherwise people will be very disappointed. The robot on the righ above is an attempt to make a robot that looks very life-like. I hesitate to call it a "robot" as it has essentially no autonomy. Nevertheless its face, was very human looking and shows the direction that the external appearance or robots may be taking. Already such robots have been used in a limited role in information booths at expos etc. It won`t be long before we see them at reception desks and info booths at department stores and companies. Apologies for the short length and distance of the video. It was unavoidable due to the crowding at the venue.