You may have heard the phrase “Uncanny Valley” before. According to many, as robots continue to look more and more like real people, we tend to feel closer to them and accept them more – but only to a point. Past that point there’s a sense of fear and revulsion at something that looks almost human, corpselike, diseased, etc. Think of great horror movies where something’s just not quite right about the villain, like the masked Michael Myers in Halloween, or the twitchy crawling style of the dead girl in The Ring.
There’s a natural inclination to avoid the thing. Well, most of us, that is. Japanese robot engineer Hiroshi Ishiguro seems hell-bent on making the creepiest things he can imagine. You may have seen his Geminoid robot series, initially designed to look just like him but gradually evolved into the creepy female “Repliee” (now sold as “Actroid” – only $20,000 and you can have your own to scare the kids away at Halloween!)
With his new robot, “Telenoid R1,” he has hit a new high-water mark in his quest to give everyone on the planet nightmares. This thing seems to capture the worst aspects of Casper the friendly ghost, the Michael Myers “William Shatner” mask, and some sort of larvae or spermatozoa.
Ostensibly sold as a telepresence robot, this thing contains nine motors to help it writhe around waiting for someone to put it out of its misery, and can be controlled remotely relaying audio and mimicking head movements and facial expressions. For those who must be the first on their block to harness the undead, research versions of the robot are currently available, costing upwards of $30k. They do hope to bring the costs down to a nearly-palatable $8,000 in the near future, so start saving your pennies now. You may have to pay your friends extra to talk to you through this though, and there’s always the danger that they’ll jam a stake through its chest hoping to rid the world of another demonic creature.
If you’re interested in seeing more of this thing(there may be something wrong with you) there are plenty of articles out there, with more pictures and even a few videos of it wriggling around. Something this bizarre is bound to get a lot of interest, and it sure has – you can see it on BotJunkie, Engadget, IEEE Spectrum Automaton, RobotShop. Personally, I’ll stick with something slightly less freakish, like the 1932 Movie Freaks with the armless/legless “Human Torso” (Prince Randian).