The so-called “uncanny valley” is a phenomenon associated with the development of life-like robotics and androids. The idea is that a poor approximation of a human or animal, something that is perhaps 20% realistic, is seen as a 20% likeness. A 50% realistic likeness is seen as better than 20%, but still a non-threatening 50%. But as the level of realism reaches about 95%, our reactions cease being benign and start to display discomfort or un-ease, a reaction that goes away at 98% realism. As robots become more realistic, we’re going to see this “uncanny valley” more and more. For instance, like with this new Geminoid DK robot.
This is positively creepy. As pointed out in an article on Salon.com today, the majority of life-like robots that we see have Asian (or Japanese) characteristics. A graph of the Uncanny Valley, Karl F. MacDorman and Takashi Minato in Android Science, is presented below.
This new one, Geminoid DK, is based on a Danish researcher (hence the “DK”). Check out this brief video clip.
Now that you’ve seen this robot being “exercised,” or put through its range of emotional motions, pretend that it’s really the front-end to Watson the know-it-all computer.
Then, realize that it’s going to be someone’s boss some day.
Back in the Age of Dilbert, we dealt with The Pointy-Haired Boss. Coming soon to a timeclock near you, we’ll have the Uncanny Boss.