back to article Not another Linux desktop! Robots cross the Uncanny Valley

Britons are getting old: baby boomers combined with a low 1970s birth rate saw the proportion of our population 65 or older increase between 1975 and 2015 from 14.1 to 17.8 per cent. That number’s expected to hit a quarter of the population by 2045, says the Office for National Statistics. Japan, of course, has already beaten …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "He builds life-like robots, one of which - Erica - he claims is the most advanced android “in the world”. "

    The BBC TV programme "Hyper Evolution: Rise of the Robots" is a two part series covering robot design from the earliest days to the latest models. Includes an interview with Erica.

    See it on iPlayer for 9 more days only. Geographic viewing limits will apply.

    1. JimmyPage

      Re: BBC TV programme "Hyper Evolution: Rise of the Robots" is

      amusing, but not science.

      I knew it was a crock when towards the end of the second slice, the sceptic-scientist was breathless with excitement when the Bristol robot demonstrated how it "learned" to count to two, and "learned" what a ball was.

      At which point, I would have said "Great. Now count out two balls". Which of course the stupid hunk of machinery could NOT do. Since despite all the "hey wowness" they had tried to dupe us with, the thing was clearly NOT leaning like humans do.

      The older I get, the more I realise technology has failed us. Or maybe it's just me ?

      1. Jonathan 27 Silver badge

        Re: BBC TV programme "Hyper Evolution: Rise of the Robots" is

        Technology hasn't failed us, there is just a subset of swindlers that oversell the current state of technology that ultimately disappoints us. AI that can genuinely learn is possible (although dangerous), but we're so far away from that at this point that it's only realistic in science fiction. Anyone who claims otherwise in the near-term is either a hopeless optimist or an intentional swindler.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: BBC TV programme "Hyper Evolution: Rise of the Robots" is

        Ive seen things you wouldn't believe...numbers greater than one and a ball.

        Man, if they based Bladerunner on current tech it'd be a shit movie.

        Having said that, an old Harrison Ford chasing down an Asimo through a current day Hong Kong street and gunning it down would be interesting to see.

  2. Dave 126 Silver badge

    > The study also suggested that this may have even reminded people of the kind of behaviour exhibited by humans with psychopathic traits.

    The A2s always were a bit twitchy.

    1. Tigra 07

      Worst case scenario...

      They'll drown themselves in the hotel pool...

  3. DZ-Jay

    The effect is not only visual...

    For all the focus on "realistic-looking" faces, people seem to forget that Masahiro Mori's original thesis regarded not the "look" of robots, but their movements. His argument was that, if we were looking to apply robots to any industry populated by human workers, we must make sure that they move in accordance to the way humans do, lest the workers will feel unease and distrust, which will impair productivity and increase the chance of injury.

    His particular points were to do with the way contemporary robots moved too fast, or much too geometrically perfect, or how they jerk when switching directions, with instant acceleration or deceleration -- all qualities devoid in human movements.

    Later on, this research was applied to visual appearance as well, since the same uneasiness is experienced when something just looks "too real" yet not quite enough. Sometimes, a human-looking robot looks absolutely real while standing perfectly still, only to break that illusion when it attempts to move in a non-organic way.


    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: The effect is not only visual...

      1991 Gulf War: BBC reporters on analogue satellite feeds, if noise then lots of 'snow' like a dodgy VHS tape. Reporter's face moved naturally like a human.

      2003 Gulf War: Reporters on a digital satellite system. Any noise caused blocking, pixelation, and jerky inhuman movement.

      tl;dr even a very fuzzy blurry moving image can look very human looking if the movement is appropriate.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The effect is not only visual...

      This young "robotic" dancer could be considered the equivalent of the Turing Test for a robot doing human movements.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Carebots for the elderly?

    And this from the nation that brought us Roujin Z.

    1. gv

      Re: Carebots for the elderly?

      I'll take a T-101 please.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Roujin Z

      First thing that sprang to my mind, too. I recommend it; it's thought-provoking and very funny at the same time.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Misleading headline

    I thought it was going to be another article on Gnome....

    1. Teiwaz

      Re: Misleading headline

      I thought it was going to be another article on Gnome....

      Or how the Ubuntu new 'vanilla' Gnome desktop is coming along - not really very vanilla as it's turning out - I knew they couldn't help tweaking.

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Uncanny valley

    Reminds of the sequel to Westworld, FutureWorld. The robot that was the most sympathetic was the tech aide that didn't have a face (well, its face was unmounted to reveal the circuits underneath).

    It never talked, and its movements were consistent with robotic behavior, but when the hero convinces the tech guy to go with him, leaving the bot alone, you could see how forlorn and lost it felt.

    Even without a face.

    I do not want robots to be human-looking. I do not feel that it helps in any way.

    Not until we have actual AI to put in them, that is, and even then, I want to be able to differentiate them from actual humans.

    1. Teiwaz

      Re: Uncanny valley

      Not until we have actual AI to put in them, that is, and even then, I want to be able to differentiate them from actual humans.

      I'd like to hope that when we do we will do the sensible mature thing and help them to be accepted and treat them as equals and not differentiate - to do otherwise would be to invite our worst mistakes with other humans all over again.

      We've no memory of any kindergarten atrocities we may have committed against other races of human as it is..

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Been there, done that

    married to a robot for 13 years.

    Can completely confirm the closer you get the more weird the experience. It's the total lack of empathy really.

    You can't fake it.

    1. Guus Leeuw

      Re: Been there, done that

      Dear Sir,

      the picked-up lastname of "Coward" is about right... ;)



  8. Cranky_Yank

    Don't look now but...

    The units designated Keanu Reeves, Kevin Costner, and Tom Cruise crossed the uncanny valley long ago.

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Yes, but

      the Nic Cage unit continues to fool people despite experiencing continual BSODs.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We seemed to be very hard-wired to quickly decide what is 'right' and 'not right' in human movements, looks, actions and expressions, possibly from a dim and distant past when quickly knowing who was in your tribe and could hopefully be trusted was of vital importance, and when correctly reading the mood of a potential predator was life-saving.

    I suspect this inbuilt 'logic' is behind a lot of today's social tensions too, and that, as a species, we will react very badly when we meet our first real aliens. But this is all conjecture on my part.

    However, when The Polar Express film came out, some children were upset by it, because the characters - no matter how well rendered - had 'dead eyes'. Their faces could not be instinctively read; they became horrible.

    There's an interesting paper on all this (that I had nothing to do with) here:

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We seem to have an inbuilt dislike of snakes and spiders. Yet at all ages we adore big eyed, furry animals - no matter how potentially dangerous.

      1. Cranky_Yank

        I've never disliked spiders or snakes. Somebody once told me that humans have a natural fear of mushrooms. I was born with an inbuilt dislike of generalizations.

  10. steelpillow Silver badge

    Linux desktop, indeed!

    This troll has clearly not used GNU/Linux in a while.

    Then again, the heading "Robots cross the uncanny valley" directly contradicts the conclusion that "the uncanny valley is here to stay".

    Double d'oh!

  11. LionelB

    One thing the article might have mentioned (although I'm really not sure what to make of it), is that Hiroshi Ishiguro, due to the effects of ageing, had cosmetic surgery to make him look more like his android. He apparently claims it was more cost-effective than updating the android.

  12. Jove Bronze badge

    If, after retirement, I had a choice between an obnoxious and ignorant NHS staff and a robot, I would go with the Robot thanks.

  13. Baldrickk

    Why try and cross?

    It seems to me that we can just find a happy position on the far side where they are close enough that we can associate but not get creeped out.

    Think K-2SO from Rogue One - did he need to be like a human to play his role? no. In my opinion, that's where we should be aiming for. We don't need to make artificial people.

  14. jelabarre59 Silver badge


    Someone even made one of these robot/androids to look like GUMI ( and sing her music.

    Of course, I would want the Megurine Luka model instead.

  15. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Who is the freakiest?

    From the picture it's hard to tell. Both look like psychopathic James Bond villains.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who is the freakiest?

      The one next to the robot freaks me out the most. I'm not sure sure which one the robot is though.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Linux desktop not necessarily user friendly?

    You obviously haven't had any real world experience of using one of the current Linux Desktop Environments:

    Linux Mint 18.1 "Cinnamon" overview

    KDE Plasma 5.X Review 2015

    Ubuntu Gnome 17.04 Review

    Unity 5 running on Ubuntu Natively

    Besides it's well known in technical circles that the only people who want to have sex with a robot are Windows users.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021