Too Real to be Real, Geminoid DK Faces Skeptics

Believe it or not, this is a robot.A new robot developed in Japan may have finally found a way to get past the so-called Uncanny Valley which has plagued the robotics industry with a machine that actually looks and acts almost perfect in relation to its human creators.  The robot may have only a limited ability to express itself, but the machine has been declared the first to get past that creepy sickly feeling that robots have endured for so many years.

It’s called Geminoid DK, and it’s the robot that will change how we look at robots.  At least so say its creators who have been working on the project since Geminoid F came into the spotlight in 2010 after making a debut appearance in a stage production in Japan.  Predictably, critics said she gave a very robotic performance.

But Geminoid DK hopes to pick up where F left off.  If you look at a photograph of Geminoid DK you may have a moment where you’re unsure if it’s a robot or not.  In fact, many have declared the achievement an elaborate prank or hoax from viewing the videos of Geminoid DK on the internet.  There is no shortage of people who think the Geminoid project is too good to be believed.  But the project is very real, assure Geminoid DK’s creators.

And part of the success of the project is the way the robot interprets the actions of its controller.  Rather than requiring a complex manually controlled panel of commands, the Geminoid DK reacts to actual facial expressions used by its developers.  If the developer smiles, so does Geminoid.  The system hopes to take much out of the guesswork of the original.

So if we’re looking at a world where robots can look exactly like humans, what’s the next step?  Currently there are a number of problems associated with robotics, including fine motor control, means of locomotion, and appearance.  Developers have reacted by taking the design aspects of robotics in two different directions.  The more accepting of the uncanny valley have decided that robots that look like humans would have to be too perfect to ever be actually feasible in mass production.  These developers have reacted by making more cartoon-like appearances in devices like the I-Fairy which was the first robot to ever act as minister in a wedding.

And of course there are those robots that have simply thrown the uncanny valley out the window, creating bizarre and disturbing robots used for teleconferencing and other purposes.

But if you’re wondering what the future of robotics might look like with a more human approach, you might want to check out the Geminoid DK.  If ever they were mass produced, you may not know if you’re talking to a human or a robot in a decade or so.