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More than 40 years ago, Masahiro Mori, a robotics professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, wrote an essay  on how he envisioned people's reactions to robots that looked and acted almost like a human. In particular, he hypothesized that a person's response to a humanlike robot would abruptly shift from empathy to revulsion as it approached, but failed to attain, a lifelike appearance. This descent into eeriness is known as the uncanny valley. The essay appeared in an obscure Japanese journal called Energy in 1970, and in subsequent years, it received almost no attention. However, more recently, the concept of the uncanny valley has rapidly attracted interest in robotics and other scientific circles as well as in popular culture. Some researchers have explored its implications for human-robot interaction and computer-graphics animation, whereas others have investigated its biological and social roots. Now interest in the uncanny valley should only intensify, as technology evolves and researchers build robots that look human. Although copies of Mori's essay have circulated among researchers, a complete version hasn't been widely available. The following is the first publication of an English translation that has been authorized and reviewed by Mori. (See “Turning Point” in this issue for an interview with Mori.).
Date of Publication: June 2012