Uncanny Valley Watch: Robot Lady Mannequin
A Geminoid robot acts as a department store mannequin capable of reacting to curious shoppers.
CREDIT: CScout Japan
She could be any young Japanese lady taking a break to check her smartphone while carefully balancing a handbag on her thighs. But when shoppers approach her sitting in the Tokyo department store, she raises her head and smiles in an awkward manner. Her blinks are almost lazily slow.
That's no human being. It's an android.
The robot lady sitting in the window of a Valentine's Day shopping display is on loan from the robotics lab of Hiroshi Ishiguro at Osaka University. She hails from a line of "Geminoid" robots that try to look and behave like humans. Their efforts create an effect that Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori called "the uncanny valley" — an show of human characteristics mixed with creepy features that give robots or computer-animated characters all the charm of a stiff doll come to life.
Still, the Geminoid lady is not without some charm. She certainly attracted her share of curious Japanese shoppers who didn't seem at all unnerved, according to the Japan Trends blog of the consulting firm CScout Japan. The combination of facial recognition software and a Microsoft Kinect device's motion-sensing allowed her to respond if anyone came near. She even yawned occasionally while waiting for human interaction.
On a scale where "1" means adorable and "5" means creepy, we rank the robot mannequin around a "3". There's enough stiffness to make the Geminoid seem unnatural, but she's far from being as horrible as a dead-eyed zombie or skeletal robot baby. Japanese people don't seem terribly disturbed by her.
This story is part of InnovationNewsDaily's ongoing series about the creepy transition to humanoid robots. You can follow InnovationNewsDaily Senior Writer Jeremy Hsu on Twitter @ScienceHsu. Follow InnovationNewsDaily on Twitter @News_Innovation, or on Facebook.