uncanny

Creepy robot skin answers 3 questions about the future

The questions you’ve always wanted to ask.

Courtesy of Promobot

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Whether they display group intelligence, are deployed as police officers, or simply lift heavy objects, it’s no secret that modern robots are becoming increasingly advanced and powerful.

Courtesy of Promobot

They’re also becoming increasingly life-like, sometimes complete with skin that looks and feels like the real deal.

Courtesy of Promobot

While life-like androids may give some people goosebumps, the cofounder of service robotics company Promobot, Oleg Kivokurtsev, tells Inverse that these human-like features are essential for the future of robotics.

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“We all know about the ‘uncanny valley’: the more a robot appears more human-like, the better it will be perceived,” Kivokurtsev tells Inverse.

“The company that can ‘surpass’ the uncanny valley will dominate the market; to do that, the robot must be well-received by humans.”

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Courtesy of Promobot

That’s exactly what Promobot plans to do with the release of their new, hyper-realistic android skins. Kivokurtsev spoke with Inverse to explain the how, the why, and the weird.

What is robot skin made of?

“Robo-C” skin is not Promobot’s first foray into android skin, but Kivokurtsev says it is the most life-like, thanks to “new silicone alloys and chemicals” that make it more durable and elastic.

Courtesy of Promobot

“Our skin must be just as soft as a human face on touch. It will not appear human if it is too rough or too thin.”

Courtesy of Promobot

Courtesy of Promobot

In addition to adding human-like qualities (such as pores or blemishes), Promobot also includes “hardware hidden underneath the skin to make sure the skin looks natural in movement.”

When could a human interact with this robot?

You’re most likely to meet a Promobot android at your favorite spot — a movie theater, mall, or office. The company designs its robots to act as artificial customer-service representatives to help customers.

Courtesy of Promobot

“We are focused on implementing robots as receptionists, visitor assistants, and concierges,” Kivokurtsev explains.

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Courtesy of Promobot

Think Wall-E, but with human-like skin.

Why do robots need human-like skin?

There’s a thin line in robotics between comforting and creepy, and Kivokurtsev says that it all comes down to quality. A human might connect better with a human-like robot over a face-less A.I., but this can backfire if the human-like robot shows subtle signs betraying its non-humanness (e.g. not blinking.)

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Reuters

Kivokurtsev and Promobot seek to rise above the uncanny valley by going all-in on human-like bots instead of taking a more measured, less life-like approach.

Courtesy of Promobot

Promobot has big plans for their life-like robots, including “assum[ing] tasks from human personnel.”

Read more about robots here.

Courtesy of Promobot