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Dec. 12, 2011

The Uncanny Valley -- Brought to You by "Frubber"

by Leslie Taylor


Via Fast Company

The uncanny valley is a term, coined in the seventies by roboticist Masahiro Mori, to describe the point at which a robot becomes human-like enough that it is no longer endearing -- but instead is very creepy.

Popular Mechanics explains:

Visualized as a curve, our sense of familiarity theoretically tracks upward as we encounter increasingly human-like machines. The steep, uncanny drop-off that marks the point of too human-like becomes a valley when you include the subsequent steep rise associated with a real human being, or perfect android. Those robots unlucky enough to topple into the valley are victims of our intimate, hard-wired perception of human biology and social cues.

Now, more than ever, robots can be created that get uncomfortably close to (some would say right in the heart of) the uncanny valley thanks to a new material called "Frubber". Created by Robotics designer David Hanson, the material -- named as a contraction of face + rubber -- is a lightweight polymer that designers can use to create faces for robots that closely emulate natural human facial expressions.
 

About Leslie Taylor

Leslie is the online editor at Workboat.com and NationalFisherman.com. She has a background in oceanography and is passionate about getting non-scientists and young people to realize how cool science can be. She is also Science Friday's former web editor.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Science Friday® and SciFri® are registered service marks of Science Friday, Inc. Site design by Pentagram; engineering by Mediapolis.

 

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