Quote for Today: Elizabeth Harrower


For five days the city had wilted under a hard sky, sweltering in a temperature that stayed fixed in the middle nineties. Even at night there was no relief from the heat. Pyjamas and nighties stuck clammily to damp skin. Half-clad, self-pitying figures rose, exasperated by insomnia, to stumble through darkened rooms in search of a cooler plot than their bed, hoping that, all accidentally, they might waken any gross sleeper the house contained. Cold water ran hot from the taps, and the roads turned to tar.
Elizabeth Harrower, Down in the City

Public Domain Image via MaxPixel


Quote for Today: Mary Karr


If you live in the dark a long time and the sun comes out, you do not cross into it whistling. There’s an initial uprush of relief at first, then-for me, anyway- a profound dislocation. My old assumptions about how the world works are buried, yet my new ones aren’t yet operational.There’s been a death of sorts, but without a few days in hell, no resurrection is possible.
Mary Karr, Lit

Image: Resurrection © Fady Habib with CCLicense

Quote for Today: Bret Easton Ellis


A curtain of stars, miles of them, are scattered, glowing, across the sky and their multitude humbles me, which I have a hard time tolerating. She shrugs and nods after I say something about forms of anxiety. It’s as if her mind is having a hard time communicating with her mouth, as if she is searching for a rational analysis of who I am, which is, of course, an impossibility: there… is… no… key.
Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho

Public Domain Image via GoodFreePhotos.com

Quote for Today: Richelle Goodrich


If you couldn’t sense heat, you’d not be alive. And if that heat never grew uncomfortable, you would never move. And if you were stagnant—unchallenged by unpredictable flares—you would never grow capable of shielding yourself from harsher flames. So yes, life was meant to drag you straight through the fire.

Richelle Goodrich, Making Wishes

Image: Lewes Bonfire Night 2007 – Wall of Flame © Dominic Alves with CCLicense

Into the Uncanny Valley: Hiroshi Ishiguro’s Geminoids and Telenoids

Why do we possess an instinctive fear of androids? Are we prepared for the questions and issues these robots inspire?

You may or may not be familiar with the uncanny valley. It is the theory that robots and animated figures produce strong discomfort in people when they fall slightly short of passing for human. Figures that do not have human attributes do not produce this discomfort. Adding human attributes at first increases empathy in the observer, until at some point a line is crossed, rendering the figure too human for comfort. The lifeless face of the mannequin is rendered more terrifying by putting it in motion. No one completely understands what disturbs us so. Is it the facial expression, the coordination or something in the eyes? Is it possible to make a robot or an image on the other side of the valley, one which is so like us that we would consider befriending it?

Scientists, engineers and animators have been working to resolve this issue. Our generation is able to conceive of a character in an animated film or game that looks completely human, of a robot that looks and feels exactly like us, and yet the valley is getting deeper and darker. Recent experiments with androids that have faces and skin have produced creepier and creepier robots. The most marketable humanoid robots today are either mechanized creations that perform specific tasks but have little personality or those that seem to be patterned after children’s toys, with non threatening faces and no skin.

CCLI by vanillase on wikimedia commons

© vanillase with CCLicense

Hiroshi Ishiguro is the Director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University in Japan. He has been making humanoid robots for years, including the female looking Geminoid™ F and the male looking Geminoid™ HI-1, patterned after himself. Both of these robots are at the cutting edge of the uncanny valley.

Video via jennymanda on YouTube.

Ishiguro’s latest model might be considered a sidestep. It is less human, but I’ll let you decide if you think it is less creepy. Meet the Telenoid R1, a portable android that can “transfer” a person’s presence. That person can transmit their own movements and words into the robot via laptop. The Telenoid is described as “a minimalistic human” and consists of a torso with a neck, head and face. If you feel inclined, it is quite huggable, the size of a child with soft and pleasant skin. In order to be better able to picture the essence of the person using it, it is designed to look both old and young and both male and female. The hope is that the Telenoid will become a comforting extension of that person. Perhaps a mother would be able to soothe her children from a distance using a Telenoid. Would you feel soothed?

Video via fhSPACEtv on YouTube.

Ishiguro’s Telenoid may help us understand what it is about androids that gets under our skin. Maybe our understanding of the valley is imprecise. What if what waits on the other side isn’t a more human robot, but something else?

Want to see the latest sales strategy for the Telenoid? Look here.