24 February 2016

Crossing the uncanny valley

This video of the next generation robot from Boston Dynamics has been posted everywhere today, but I'm going to store it here in TYWKIWDBI also, not so much for the technology per se, but for the emotional response the robot generates.

I felt a certain warmth toward the robot while watching it walk in the woods, because its gait in that terrain is not that far removed from my own on my post-polio legs.

Many people have expressed an empathy while watching the robot being tormented by the human - but then there's a sudden emotional shift when the robot gets up from the floor - WOAH! - and you expect it to go find Mr. Hockey Stick and kick some human ass.

For those who missed them in previous years, here is Boston Dynamics' Big Dog (2008).  And here is their jumping "Sand Flea" (2012).

And for reference, scroll down here for a graph of the "uncanny valley."


  1. Having just finished Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson (a book I would highly recommend, by the way), this video strikes a certain amount of fear into my heart!

    [Am also amused by the 'I am not a robot' check I had to pass in order to post this...]

  2. Have not seen this anywhere else yet. I'd like to propose faun-like as a description of the gait.

  3. My first response when the guy teased the robot and then knocked it over was sadness and empathy for the robot; it took an instant for my logic to kick in and remind me that it is, after all, "just" a robot.

  4. the gait of all the BD (now a part of the google empire) robots is just so life-like. sometimes they are so faltering that you want to run out and make sure it does not fall over. having the sensation, towards a robot, that this is your child, or a just born animal, taking its first steps - THAT is scary.


  5. I don't feel much empathy -- it is much easier for me to imagine cowering under a desk, clutching my daughter while Big Dogs sweep the area, looking to finish off the human survivors. Advances like this are probably inevitable, but it doesn't keep them from being chilling for me.

    1. when is the first deployment?



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