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Creepy meets cool in humanoid robots at CES tech show

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By Joshua MELVIN

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My mother's quiz magazine often has adverts for ultra-lifelike dolls of toddlers. I find them to be creepier than Chucky. There are companies that make lifelike dolls of adult women which are purchased as 'companions'. Some collectors have several, with wardrobes of clothes for them. However weird that sounds, I don't find them anything like as creepy as the toddler dolls. It may be that we are more used to adult 'androids' from TV and film: Data in Star Trek, replicants in Blade Runner, etc.

A lot of robotics folk focus on animals rather than humans. The power requirements and movement/balance issues are much easier to deal with, as is realistic interaction. This work is helping designers understand how we can implement lifelike features with tech components in general, so it will help in the construction of humanoid robots. Initial ones may be smaller - more like hobbits than adult humans. Aside from language-based interaction, which presents potentially unfixable issues for tech mainframes, never mind mobile units, we are finely attuned to facial tics that help us read each other and communicate. Lifelike, interactive humanoid robots (rather than animated mannequins) may be some way off. And most people may prefer a robotic cat or dog anyway.

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