Robots: Is the uncanny valley real?

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It’s commonly held that robots that look too similar to humans creep us out. It’s called the uncanny valley, and it leads designers to be careful to build robots that are distinctly non-human. But scientific studies have found varying responses to bots that fall into the uncanny valley. Sometimes they scare study participants and sometimes they don’t, and researchers are not quite sure why.

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Hoaloha Robotics

The “uncanny valley” is an attempt to explain why there is such varied reaction to robots with humanoid characteristics, suggesting that while some human characteristics can be beneficial, going too far can result in adverse effects. I personally believe that it has much to do with setting user expectations; i.e., the more human the robot appears, the greater expectation you have for fully human behavior and when you can’t deliver on that it disrupts the user experience. Say you see a fancy looking sports car. The body lines are sleek. The tires look like racing slicks and the exhaust and trim are big and shiny. Then you get in and drive it around and find that it drives like a toy car. You will be very disappointed and disinterested in using it. The same is true for robots. There must be symmetry between the appearance and what the robot can deliver.

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