Not too long ago, ideas of robots and artificial intelligence were mostly found in Sci-Fi books, but nowadays they’re both extremely real and spreading like wildfire. Robot developers are getting better and better at making them life-like, making them intelligent and overall improving them, but what is the line that needs to be drawn when it comes to their design?
There’s this hypothesis by robotics professor Masahiro Mori called uncanny valley that says there’s a very thin line between love and hate when it comes to robots that look too much like human beings.
In short, if the robot looks like a human, acts like one, but it’s still noticeably a robot, humans will enjoy them and look in awe at what they can do. There is a point there, however, where humans start feeling revulsion, or, in layman’s terms, they feel creeped out.
The same hypothesis, however, states that if the robot is extremely life-like, making it difficult to distinguish it’s a robot, the emotional response once more becomes positive, approaching even regular, human-to-human, empathy levels.
The art of robot-making
Of course, creating robots that are lifelike is equal parts engineering and art. Over the years we’ve seen numerous examples of how far technology has come with robots that can move their facial features almost like a human can, or whose body can move in similar fashion. This is the result of countless hours of study and fine-tuning of the robot’s hardware and software and the results are remarkable.
It seems that the goal of robotics designers is, indeed, to make their creations look as close as possible to a human being. Unless the result is perfect, however, the reactions won’t be pretty. The truth of the matter is that we’re still quite a ways from reaching perfection, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
Perhaps until then, the best solution is to create robots that are clearly robots, without dressing them in human-like skin, giving them facial features that can mimic humans too much. Or, on the other hand, perhaps the best idea is to keep pushing the issue, ignore repulsive reactions and keep trying until perfection is reached – until they manage to create that robot that looks like a human, walks like a human, and even acts like a human, thanks to its AI software.
The big question, of course, is whether robot engineers should even take into account how other humans feel about their creation, especially since they know that every new day brings them closer to attaining their goals.
In the end, the goal is bigger than the reactions of some people around the world that may or may not really be ready to embrace the future – a future that is quickly approching us.