Uncanny Valley Watch: Shoulder Avatar
A robot avatar called MH-2 can sit on a person's shoulder while being controlled remotely by a friend.
CREDIT: Tsumaki Telerobotics Lab
Hanging out with friends may take on an entirely different meaning with Japan's robot avatar that sits on people's shoulders. The vaguely creepy MH-2 robot resembles a miniature humanoid capable of transmitting the voice and gestures of a person controlling it remotely.
The oddball idea for having distant friends interact comes from Japanese researchers at Yamagata University, according to IEEE Spectrum. One person must put on a bulky mechanical backpack with 22 actuators that help direct the shoulder robot's movements. The other person might step into a 3D virtual theater to use motion-capture technology such as Microsoft's Kinect for Xbox.
Such a concept still seems a bit too "uncanny valley" to ever catch on — especially given the awkward combination of the friend's familiar, real voice with the robot's expressionless face and stiff gestures. But the idea itself has promise if humanoid robots ever conquer the uncanny valley and look real enough to pass off as human. [Today's Humans Ready to Love Tomorrow's Robots]
On a scale where "1" means adorable and "5" means creepy, we rank the shoulder robot avatar around a "3". It's not particularly creepy like Japan's "robot-butt" or a robotic Terminator baby, but it's not particularly cute either. The main creepiness may come from seeing and hearing the robot avatar act like your best friend — we'll stick to phones for now, thanks.
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.