A Path Out of the Uncanny Valley

Posted 19 Oct 2009 at 17:48 UTC by steve Share This

We're all familiar with Masahiro Mori's Uncanny Valley, the hypothesis that attempts to explain why non-anthropomorphic robots seem cute but as their appearance becomes more human, humans find them creepier. Deep in the uncanny valley, we find zombies, corpses, and androids, such as the one pictured above, created by Hanson Robotics. Is it time to rethink the Uncanny Valley hypothesis? Johan Eklund writes, I just finished my thesis about "humans heterogeneous reactions towards robots". Johan goes on to summarize his findings:

In my own opinion I have an explanation of our "forgiving reactions on the abstract robot" that is novel (with refs to Scott McCloud's examination of comics). A focus on the theoretical explanation of our positive reactions to the abstract robot, could also compliment or replace a simple listing of our heterogeneous reaction to robots, which can be found elsewhere. The short version of "our forgiving reactions towards the abstract robot" is that the abstract expression is further from our daily visual experience with the world, and because of that we don't intuitively know the premisses and implications that are valid. This stands in contrast to the more analog expression which is more in accordance with our experience with the world. Because of this we immediately know the premisses for the analog expression but not so for the more abstract expression. Not immediately knowing the valid premisses for an abstract object can thus be describes as: "a forgiving reaction to the abstract expression".

For more see Johan's full thesis (PDF format) or, if you don't read Danish, try the English language abstract of his thesis (PDF format). Johan also recommends David Hanson's recent TED talk for more on the subject.

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