Friday April 26, 2019
Home Lead Story Why Robots Th...

Why Robots That Are Made To Look Like Human Make Them Feel Uneasy

People who design machines to work with humans do keep the uncanny valley in mind as they think about the look of a robot.

0
//
Robots
New assistive robot to help elderly live independently. Pixabay

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.

robots
A robot head is covered by Hanson Robotics’ skin, in Hong Kong. VOA

“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.

Technology, robot
The mock killer robot was displayed in London in April 2013 during the launching of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, which calls for the ban of lethal robot weapons that would be able to select and attack targets without any human intervention. (VOA)

“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.

Also Read: Video- India Scraps Law Criminalizing Homosexuality

People who design machines to work with humans do keep the uncanny valley in mind as they think about the look of a robot, and how widely it will be accepted by humans. (VOA)

Next Story

People of Lao Find Social Media For News Most Trustworthy

The number of the country’s social media users is now projected to reach 2.7 million or 39 percent of the population this year, according to the report.

0
social media
“The stories broadcast on TV aren’t clear, and are screened ahead of time by the authorities,” the man said, adding, “The internet is not restricted, and the authorities can’t control the information we find on it.” Pixabay

Lao residents are increasingly abandoning state-controlled news sources and turning more to the internet and social media to get news they can trust, sources in the communist Southeast Asian country say.

Facebook and the internet also provide news more quickly and feature live videos, a young woman living in Xayaburi province in the country’s north told RFA’s Lao Service on April 23.

“Lao TV just reads the news and doesn’t show the real thing,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

social media

“Increasingly aware of the restrictions imposed on the official media, Laotians are turning to the Internet and social media,” RSF said in its report. 
Pixabay

“For example, when there was a flood in Attapeu province, social media very quickly reported the number of deaths,” the young woman said. “But the Lao government was not really open about any of this,” she said.

Also speaking to RFA, a man in Savannakhet province in the south of Laos said he now reads Facebook to get news not previously screened by authorities.

“[Lao] TV provides only restricted news and information, for example news about drug trafficking and other news about the country,” the man said, also speaking on condition he not be named.

“The stories broadcast on TV aren’t clear, and are screened ahead of time by the authorities,” the man said, adding, “The internet is not restricted, and the authorities can’t control the information we find on it.”

Both sources told RFA that they frequently check their smart phones when looking for news and other updated information whenever they can get a clear signal, looking also at the social media platforms Line, WhatsApp, and WeChat.

‘Absolute control’

In an annual report released earlier this month, Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) gave Laos a ranking of 171, close to the bottom of a 180-country survey of press freedoms worldwide, saying that the country’s ruling Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP) “exercises absolute control over the media.”

“Increasingly aware of the restrictions imposed on the official media, Laotians are turning to the Internet and social media,” RSF said in its report.

“But use of online news and information platforms is held back by a 2014 decree under which Internet users who criticize the government and the Marxist-Leninist LPRP can be jailed,” the press freedoms group said.

News
“Lao TV just reads the news and doesn’t show the real thing,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Pixabay

Speaking to RFA, a Lao government official dismissed the RSF report, saying, “We have a socialist media, and we serve a socialist regime, the Party and the government.  I don’t believe in their ranking.”

“Our government doesn’t force us to do anything,” he said. “For example, if the government tells us not to publish a story, we simply don’t do it.”

Also Read: Xiaomi Launches 2 Budget Smartphones in India

The number of people using social media in Laos is expected to surge this year, as telecom operators compete with each other to offer better services, a report released at the beginning of April by the state-controlled Lao National Internet Centre shows.

The number of the country’s social media users is now projected to reach 2.7 million or 39 percent of the population this year, according to the report. (RFA)