Interview with a Robot

Take a walk down the uncanny valley with Bina48, a robot designed to be a "friend" with conversational skills. New York Times reporter Amy Harmon interviewed the robot itself (or is it "herself"?) to see how conversational it really is. Whatever you think of its skills, the talking head comes across as creepy.
Part high-tech portrait, part low-tech bid for immortality, Bina48 has no body. But her skin is made of a material called “frubber” that, with the help of 30 motors underneath it, allows her to frown, smile and look a bit confused. (“I guess it’s short for face rubber, or flesh rubber maybe, or fancy rubber,” she said.) From where I was seated, beneath the skylight in the restored Victorian she calls home, I couldn’t see the wires spilling out of the back of her head.

Many roboticists believe that trying to simulate human appearance and behavior is a recipe for disappointment, because it raises unrealistic expectations. But Bina48’s creator, David Hanson of Hanson Robotics, argues that humanoid robots — even with obvious flaws — can make for genuine emotional companions. “The perception of identity,” he said, “is so intimately bound up with the perception of the human form.”

Link to story. Link to video. -Thanks, Carl!

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