Android Skips Uncanny Valley – Fills In At The Office For You

For those that are unaware, Androids are often judged by where they fall on the uncanny valley curve, a graph that maps human revulsion to robots that closely resemble humans but are just a bit off (similar to how a corpse resembles a living person). This offering jumps right over that dip of the curve and takes its rightful place as a human stand-in. Well, except that you’re probably going to notice the limbless torso… but pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

This is the result of research by Geminoid Lab at Aalborg University. It is the twin of its creator and in an effort to be as human as possible, movements are mimicked using facial recognition from a human operator. We’d bet that with some clever learning routines you can map out and index common mannerisms from the original person for later use with this body-snatcher-esque copy. Take a look at the clips after the break; we don’t think you’ll be creeped out at all.



[via IEEE Spectrum and Crunchgear]

51 thoughts on “Android Skips Uncanny Valley – Fills In At The Office For You

  1. There’s no such thing as the ‘uncanny valley’. The whole thing started from a single research paper done years ago. If anyone bothered to actually read the paper (and look at the corresponding images they had people rate) they’d quickly realize the pictures were just plain creepy, and clearly not constructed by anyone with proper artistic talent or training.

  2. I’m sorry, but I think this robot fits RIGHT in the valley of the uncanny valley graph… It’s movements are way too twitchy, the eyes look like he’s a woman, age 60.
    The facial hair makes thins look a lot more real then other robots, but this isn’t anywhere near believable for me.

  3. I think the skin needs to be slightly more flexible (most peoples eyebrows don’t move that much when blinking) to truly cross uncanny valley, but this is still AMAZING

  4. What’s so good about the other side of the uncanny valley?

    Why can’t we have robots that look like robots. I always liked the metal Cylons a lot better than the tall blonde ones anyways. Robots could make no attempt to hide their electronic blood and still be very full of emotion and body language.

  5. Even before I read the title, I thought the picture was creepy! I found the face weird and scary.

    Then I read the title and thought WTF, it’s not skipping the uncanny valley at all! That’s impressive, but it still fails at avoiding the valley.

  6. @Faelenor & @Bob

    I wonder if making the robot look like a really ugly human would change people’s perceptions and/or the uncanny-valley idea? We’re talking like dirty hobo kind of unpleasant looking. Hmm… Perhaps make it stink bad? I wonder if people would overlook the odd technical quirks if the “person” was undesirable to look at in the first place?

  7. “This offering jumps right over that dip of the curve and takes its rightful place as a human stand-in.” Wow… Either you didn’t watch the second video at ALL, or the people you know in real life have a terrible case of bi-polar, awkward-mechanical-twitching disease…

    For me, this robot resides at the deepest of depths of the “uncanny valley”… lol

  8. it doesn’t creep me out but the slow blink is a dead give away. does anyone actually blink that slow? aren’t the muscles that make us blink the fastest in the body?

  9. Super neat! Now all we need to do is find some energy dense enough to power it for a few hours and we’re one step closer to the robot overlords of lore :P

    I agree with the chorus of people pointing out how thoroughly this lies in the uncanny valley.

    Note a few things which are “off”:
    1) His eyes never focus. This more gives him the look of being stoned more than anything, but still, it’s off
    2) His cheeks don’t move properly when he smiles
    3) As a number of others have already pointed out, there’s really no proper transition between expressions. Each individual expression looks mostly natural, but the movement from one to the next is bizarre

    This is definitely lying somewhere beyond the deepest depths of the uncanny valley closer to the “real enough that it almost looks like someone with a muscle problem”, but it still has a way to go.

  10. “There’s no such thing as the ‘uncanny valley’.”

    I can assure you, in the world of sex dolls – there absolutely is. More like the “so creepy I would not do anything with that doll let alone have sex with it valley”.

    There is a reason why these dolls look sexy and yet still seem… a bit off.

  11. This reminds of the really bad animatronic thingses that some ghost-train rides have out the front to entice the kids to spend their pocket money.
    The fact that it’s wrapped in a mostly human looking skin does not make this an android, it’s just a twitchy robot with a rubber skin.

  12. Uncanny Valley

    You are all nitpicking at this android because of its movements. The Uncanny Valley is to cause REVULSION from being “almost human”, and has nothing to do with how life-like it is with its movements. The android itself is, not matter how twitchy it is with its movements, still looks very human, and is in no way revolting.

  13. Awesome,

    When will these replace DMV employees, airport check ins, and train/bus station clerks?

    Anyone who works behind a sheet of glass separating them from the customer is fair game. Might as well turn cash registers in to vending machines and put them behind the counter of McDonald’s too.

    The sooner the entire service industry is replaced with automation, the sooner people can get back to doing productive things with their time.

  14. I have to say the uncanny valley is a bit like muppetry. The muppeteers do a WONDERFUL job of making lifeless dolls look alive, but there is a limit to how much articulation you can put in an animatronic face. You’d practically have to emulate the thousands of individual muscle bundles and their tiny segments to completely reproduce the nuances of human facial expression. I bet a muppeteer could do better on the animation of the current robot though.

    I can just imagine a female, attractive version on a RealDoll body.

  15. Actually, I was thinking about it, remember the post a while back about the lifelike mask? While not perfectly lifelike when moved, the mask was about as close to ‘mission impossible’ as I’ve ever seen. This looks to be using some of the same techniques.

    But yeah, use independent eye servos (if they aren’t already) and some way to adjust the iris dilation in a natural-looking way, so that the face can focus based on context.

    I’ve actually seen the difference before, I was experimenting with my wife. I looked AT her, a few feet away. Then I looked ‘through’ her as though I was looking into the distance. She didn’t recognize what I did, but it seemed like I was ‘looking deeper’, which I was. Then she did the same, and it was quite clear that she wasn’t looking directly at me anymore.

  16. “You’d practically have to emulate the thousands of individual muscle bundles and their tiny segments to completely reproduce the nuances of human facial expression”

    Not true. There are nowhere near that many degrees of articulation in the human face. There are a lot, yes and part of the hurdle is getting them all in such a compact area but this problem isn’t THAT hard.

    The hard problem (hehe puns are fun!) is marrying that head onto a sex doll’s body. Then you have to program it to *DO* something. THAT’S the hard problem.

  17. I suppose if the author watched the youtube videos in their small frames that might be true. At these resolutions it looks almost human.
    If you can’t understand all of the people saying it’s really quite creepy, check it out in 720p or 1080p. The skin and eyes just aren’t right – like the lights are on but there’s nobody home.

  18. I think part of the problem with this guy is that he doesn’t move when he’s not making an expression. Most humans I’ve met move around a lot more. Something a simple as subtle breathing movements or little head jiggles now and then might add improve the look. A lot of the motion also seems “Sudden” when it shouldn’t. The switch to the grin had no look of surprise or change in expression as a transition.

  19. I always figure the motion problems can be worked out by better modeling of human motion, but I’ve been disappointed ever since the Hall of Presidents at Disneyworld, and nothing seems to have improved much in the last 20 years. This robot is better than any other human analogue I’ve seen yet, but still has motion issues. Perhaps with some motion capture input of the kind James Cameron did for Avatar, they’d have good enough data to feed it.

    Some of the “just standing around” motion works for me, and some doesn’t. The Uncanny Valley effect really hits me hardest when it transitions abruptly from a fairly natural movement to either no movement, or to some robotic rotation of the head.

    The still image above looks like he has lazy eye, and his eyes don’t track well in the videos. I think one of the most telling motions of humans is eye-tracking. Human eyes rotate fast, and they track targets of interest. Watch someone read a book, and you can see the rapid movements in their eyes. Talk to someone, and watch how they track you. I agree this robot could pass for a stoner if they gave it the giggles and the munchies. One “cheat” would be to give him an eye patch – it’s harder to see where a one-eyed person is focusing.

    I’d say it’s on the far wall of the Uncanny Valley, part way up and still climbing. It has good moments. It’s not good enough overall, but it’s better than anything else I’ve seen so far.

  20. As yetihehe said, movement in these videos is not relevant: they were just testing the servos – exercising the motors throughout their motion range is in no way representative of how finely or delicately can they be programmed to mimic expressions. The jerkyness is probably addressable with some speed ramping – take a look at any CNC mill, you won’t see it crash hard when it starts or stops moving.

    And frankly, the way the face deforms look way more realistic (though recognizably still not quite human) to me than anything else I’ve seen yet.

  21. @CT: The uncanny valley is a concept which universal tenant surpass its mere origin. I think you’ll find it hard to disprove a concept as it is not stated as a matter of fact but more as an illustrational tool.

  22. Besides, if one was to be presented by a perfectly human body with this head, face to face, trying to make a conversation…you’d probably stare and wonder if you were on candid camera, not accept that he’s just quirky or a stoner.

    It is VERY lifelike, but again, you have to imagine being FOOLED, or being unable to tell whether the REAL face or the MACHINE face were the human. They don’t show it’s creator’s mugshot, but I doubt it’s all that close.

  23. @nhede Actually, those are very pretty, but as about half their models look like children, I would hesitate to support such a business. I don’t read the language, but it also looks like they have a smaller selection of breast shapes, which of course may matter to the seeker of silicone friendship.

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