Study Finds Humans Want A.I. Robots to Look Human… Up to a Point | IGN

A new study finds people prefer their androids to have human-like features – up to a point. Psychologists at Emory University recently documented how people reacted to androids with a variety of features, from very human-looking to clearly machine-like. Their findings, published in the journal Perception, challenge some long-held assumptions about the cognitive mechanics behind “the uncanny valley” – that sensation when something designed to look human and familiar triggers repulsion instead.

The mind-perception theory posits that when people see a machine that looks human, they believe it has a mind and that’s what causes a sense of unease. But Emory’s study suggests the opposite is actually true.

“It’s not the first step of attributing a mind to an android but the next step of ‘dehumanizing’ it by subtracting the idea of it having a mind that leads to the uncanny valley. Instead of just a one-shot process, it’s a dynamic one,” according to Wang Shensheng, the study’s first author.

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“The whole process is complicated but it happens within the blink of an eye,” Wang said, according to ScienceDaily. “Our results suggest that at first sight we anthropomorphize an android, but within milliseconds we detect deviations and dehumanize it. And that drop in perceived animacy likely contributes to the uncanny feeling.”

In other words, it seems people want their androids to look more like C-3PO or Data and less like Ash from Alien.

It’s a conclusion Emory’s study suggests will prove significant to both engineers and psychologists as robotics become increasingly present in workplaces and social interactions where people’s ease with them will be crucial. It’s an issue scientists have studied and wrestled with for several years.

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The uncanny valley also remains a challenge for special effects artists in creating CG characters for movies and TV shows.

For more uncanny android coverage, dive into our spoiler-filled breakdown of the first three episodes of HBO Max’s Raised by Wolves.

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