New Delhi: Air India announced a nonstop flight from New Delhi to San Francisco which would start from December 2, the only link between India and the west coast of America. AI made the announcement when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Silicon Valley. The news was planned to be announced during PM Modi’s visit to the west coast.
Air India in a statement said, “San Francisco will become Air India’s fourth destination in the United States. Air India operates daily non-stop flights to New York (JFK), Newark (EWR) and Chicago (ORD).”
The new flight will make travel seamless for the large Indian community in the valley.
“Passengers from seven cities, all IT hubs, in India i.e Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Ahmedabad and Pune will have seamless connections to the flight from Delhi. Likewise, the return flight from San Francisco will provide onward connections to nine cities i.e. Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Kochi, Ahmedabad, Pune and Bhubaneswar,” AI said.
The flight will operate for three days a week- Wednesday, Friday, Sunday. It will have a convenient early morning departure and arrival. The flight will offer a 3-cabin configuration, with 8 seats in First Class, 35 seats in Business Class and 195 seats in Economy Class.
An increasing number of robots are being created and designed to work side by side with humans, in a human environment. That means robots have to be structured like a person, because some of them have to walk and sit like a person. Some robots are even being designed to look human.
But seeing an android, a robot that looks human, can make some people uneasy. That growing unsettling feeling or phenomenon as robots begin to look more like human beings is called the “uncanny valley.”
Even researchers who work on robots are not immune to it.
“I know how they work. I know they’re just machines, but something about something that looks like a person but doesn’t quite move like a person is disturbing,” said Jonathan Gratch, director for virtual human research at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Institute for Creative Technologies.
Gratch, who is a research professor of computer science and psychology, studies human-computer interaction.
He said there are many thoughts behind why the uncanny valley exists. One explanation is that it’s biological. People are hardwired to recognize when something seems wrong.
“In my research, I study emotion and how we use emotional cues to read each other’s minds, and I think a lot of the issue for me is if you try to make something very realistic, then you start trying to read all this information into what it’s portraying, and it is not the right information. So, it just communicates something is off. Something is wrong with this interaction,” Gratch said.
Another theory is that a robot that looks too human threatens what it means to be human.
“Initially, humans were seen as the only intelligent entity. And now, we know more and more that animals can do many of the things that we do, build tools. We know machines are starting to become intelligent. We hold on to the fact that we’re emotional, but now these machines are starting to be emotional as well, which is perhaps a threat. So, where does that lead people?” Gratch explained.
A person’s religious beliefs and culture may also play into how an android is perceived, he suggested.
“In the Western tradition, coming from Christianity, humans are unique, perhaps uniquely possessing a soul. Whereas in Japanese Shinto culture, souls live everywhere, in rocks and machines,” Gratch said.
John Rebula is a postdoctoral fellow at USC and is working on making a humanoid robot walk like a person by being more coordinated and balanced. Applications include the ability to walk up a flight of stairs and sit in a chair made for a person. He said the robot’s face is not necessary and is clearly cosmetic.
“We really do think of these as research machines that we’re ripping apart and putting back together, ripping apart and putting back together. And so, it’s very easy for us to leave off the cosmetic bits,” Rebula said.
His robot does have cartoon-like eyes, ears and a nose. It could be considered cute. However, if it looked more human, Rebula said he would not necessarily want to be in the lab with it all the time.
“We have lots of late nights in labs. You start yelling at the robot a little bit as it is — ‘Oh, why aren’t you working?’ I don’t necessarily, myself, need that extra layer of weird,” Rebula said.