The "uncanny valley" is a term you'll hear roboticists throw out from time to time.
It gets at the idea that robots are most appealing to us when they either look nothing like a human (a disembodied robot arm, for example) or when they look exactly like a human. The "valley" is that nebulous in-between phase where a robot's physical appearance strives for and falls short of imitating that of a flesh-and-blood person. It's creepy and unsettling.
We rounded up some of the most physically reassuring robots there are. Some are soft and fluffy, others have big eyes that instantly register to us as cute.
Each one has been used for a variety of different purposes, but they all have one thing in common: Widespread appeal to the humans they may one day be working and "living" alongside.Furby is a now-classic kid's toy.
Furbies probably represent the first time people had robots in their houses that they interacted with on a regular basis. They were every child's gotta-have-it toy in 1998. Over 40 million of them were sold between 1998 and 2001.
Leonardo is a "social robot" by MIT roboticist Cynthia Breazeal.
Bearing more than a little resemblance to a Gremlin of movie fame, Leonardo is a robot designed to interact with people — a social robot. Completed in 2002, Leonardo is two and a half feet tall and has a suite of sensors designed to make it optimal for communicating with people:
A camera mounted in the robot’s right eye captures faces. A facial feature tracker developed by the Neven Vision corporation isolates the faces from the captures. A buffer of up to 200 views of the face is used to create a model of the person whenever they introduce themself via speech. Additionally, Leonardo can track objects and faces visually using a collection of visual feature detectors that include color, skin tone, shape, and motion.
NEC's PaPeRo is a research bot for exploring how robots will live with us in the future.
NEC's PaPeRo (Partner-type Personal Robot) is cute as a button, though it's only ever been a prototype for research purposes and is not for sale. It has a facial recognition system to facilitate repeated interactions with a number of different people — an essential function for it to fulfill its straightforward "assignment" of helping roboticists figure out what it takes to get humans and robots to live together frictionlessly.
Sony's AIBO is classic.
Sony's famous robot dog, AIBO, is no replacement for man's best friend, but the digital canine analog can play fetch and respond to being petted with the best of them.
Wikipedia tells us they were "marketed for domestic use as 'entertainment robots.' They were also widely adopted by universities for educational purposes and research into robotics and human-robot interaction."
Sony announced the line of robo-pets would be discontinued ("taken to the farm") in January 2006.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
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