George Dvorsky over at Gizmodo did a lovely write-up on last week on ten androids at the forefront of our “replacing humanity” obsession. The list focuses less on AI and more on the physical reproduction of human looks and movements, but that’s important too. We have to bridge the uncanny valley so the machine can seduce you before tossing you across the room.
I think I had forgotten about ATLAS before this article, the DARPA-funded android most likely to join humans on the battlefield as a humanoid helper. I love the fact that the newest version has a kill switch installed.
Watch ATLAS open a door and then cross wooded, hilly terrain as it approaches your house:
Gizmodo’s list is pretty great, but I decided to check out the Hanson Robotics website to see if there was anything new on offer there. I still think their “Sophia” android is the most realistic I’ve seen in terms of mimicking humans.
Hanson’s Philip K. Dick robot isn’t newer than Sophia, but it’s wildly creepy. Just check out this video—the creep factor comes almost entirely from the brilliant staging of the video, in which two interviewers share a couch with the lounging android. It’s not even clear that it’s a robot until you get a reverse shot of the back of its head and see the machine parts. Love it.
I have to assume Hanson knows what it’s doing by posting these slightly blurry videos of detached heads on each android’s page. They can build artificial humans but can’t shoot HD video? It must be for the horror effect.
At the risk of being a commercial for Hanson Robotics AND Audi, here is a video of Sophia—still my fav—riding in a self-driving car. It’s thoroughly choreographed and staged, but still fun.
One of the robots in the original list that interested me is PETMAN from Boston Dynamics. PETMAN doesn’t try to look human outside of basic form and movement, but its sensory skin can detect chemicals in the air as well as sweating and regulating temperature.
It’s something that fascinates me about androids and even more about humans with bioelectronics implants. Traditional sensory inputs of the human form—eyes, ears, nose—will likely become cosmetic while skin and bodily sensors, including microscopic cameras, will take over and improve upon their old functions. Why rely on your eyes if you are getting a direct neural feed that includes much more comprehensive information about their environment?
Anyway, PETMAN has great skin.
That’s it for android fun (this week). Check out the original Gizmodo list, it’s fun. And don’t forget to ask your next Uber driver if she is human. If she laughs, that means no, and you don’t have to tip.