Sunday, November 7, 2010

Japanese or US Americans: who likes androids more?

US Americans do, according to Christoph Bartneck at the Technical University of Munich. He thinks that crossing the uncanny valley - overcoming the revulsion we feel towards robots that are almost, but not quite, human-like - is something that a society does together.

Bartneck showed Japanese and US citizens a number of photos and asked them to rate them for likeability. Some of those showed the faces of real humans, some showed human-like androids, and some were simply photos of robot pets. The Japanese participants liked toy robots better than US participants did, but US citizens were more likely to 'like' human-like androids.

Those results are down to cultural differences, thinks Bartneck. Japanese culture is awash with cute robots, a fact that has boosted their likeability. Because human-like androids are still largely confined to the lab, they are not liked. Those androids are perhaps no more common in the States, but Bartneck thinks US citizens are more easy-going in general, and happier to talk to new people - so they are less disturbed by the appearance of human-like androids.

Those conclusions seem a bit simplistic, but Bartneck probably has a point. The onus on crossing the uncanny valley is often placed exclusively on the researchers behind the androids, pushing their creations across the valley floor. Maybe humans on the opposite side of the valley have an equally important role to play in pulling those robots and computer generated images towards them. We can learn to love creepy robots, if we just try.

Colin Barras, online technology reporterLabels: robots

Posted by Tom at 6:05 PM

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