Humanoid robots and virtual humans in the ‘uncanny valley’

click to enlargeOne of the challenges that designers of both robots and ‘virtual humans’ in online simulation settings is to make them, in the dictum of pioneering industrial designer Raymond Loewy, MAYA–‘most advanced yet acceptable’. The MAYA of robotics appearance was stated about 40 years ago by Professor Masahiro Mori at the Tokyo Institute of Technology; the more human and less machine-like the appearance, the more positive a real human’s emotional response will be. But as simulated humans have progressed in commercial animation and in online settings to ‘almost human’, there is a ‘creepiness factor’ that emerges when they closely resemble humans–but not quite. That drop in emotional response as human realism increases, but there is the feeling that there is something ‘off’, is called the ‘uncanny valley’. It can also vary by individual as the expectation of realism may vary. This is of concern as advanced artificial intelligence coupled with simulated humans are being increasingly used in mobile virtual coaching, mental health and other care services–and that humanoid companion robots near commercial reality. The virtual reality doctor will see you now (Armed With Science) 

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