Children of the Uncanny Valley

CB2 seems resigned to his terrible robot fate.

CB2 seems resigned to his terrible robot fate.

We recently said we’d be revisiting the Uncanny Valley, and there’s probably nothing Uncanny Valley-er than a robotic baby. Fortunately for CB2, the robot baby below, the organization that created it appears to be defunct; its short life seemed to consist mainly of taunting it by tugging its arms and dangling objects above it as it lay on its back like a beetle, unable to escape. The only words it seemed able to utter were “eh” and “eh”, otherwise it probably would have shrieked “LET ME GO, I DON’T WANT TO STAND UP RIGHT NOW” as the researcher tugged it into a precarious upright position:

The Still Suffering

CB2’s misery may have ended, but sadly, the torture continues for iCub, the open source robot. Take the video titles below with a grain of salt; iCub has a long way to go before it’s autonomously following you around the house asking you to read The Robot and the Bluebird to it.

iCub Learns Names of Shapes & Colours

If by “learning names of shapes and colors” you mean saying “muh serm gree durh sowm green faww” no matter what you show it.

iCub Learns to Play Piano

Well, to be fair, it might be more accurate to say “stares at keyboard playing terrible MIDI rendition of Christmas song, then hits a few keys”.

iCub Pours Cereal in a Cup

Although iCub struggles here too, it highlights something interesting: it’s fairly likely that there will be preferred “movement models” when this technology brings us full blown life-like robotics. iCub replicates the gestural training perfectly.

Advanced Cereal Pouring

Maybe the iCub development community should contact Simone Giertz; she’s already made significant inroads with this cereal pouring thing (we previously touched on this here).

Why Make Baby Robots At All?

This was a perfectly reasonable question asked in Spielberg’s Artificial Intelligence (see clip further below), and presumably the answer is for “training”. Training humans, that is. Although I understand perfectly well the reasoning behind it, I personally find the idea that people who are incapable of caring for a baby are trained using “life like” dolls a bit creepy. But if you know some befuddled teen or drug addict and want them raising babies, help is available. On Amazon!

Ready-or-Not Tot Enhanced White Male or Female

We’re not sure what “enhanced” means, and we’re also not sure exactly what that title on the instruction manual means either.
Ready-or-Not Tot - Enhanced White

Nasco Nita Newborn Infant Access Simulator

This little baby is all business. The product description mentions all sorts of terms we’ve never heard, like vascular accessing, venipuncture, and the median basilic, saphenous, and popliteal veins. ONLY $1,212.99!*

Nasco Nita Newborn Infant Access Simulato*At the time of this writing

No Functionality, Just Pure Terror

Okay, we of course have been joking about the robotic babies; there’s a lot of incredible technology going into the development of these things. But while rabbit wholing on Amazon, we ran across a lot of products like the two below, which seem to serve no purpose other than to terrify any sane person as they shop for dolls for their real live children. A few of the questions asked on the Amazon pages probably give some insight into who is seriously pondering a purchase; one potential buyer asked “can she take a pasafire? does see come with thangs?” Because, you know, who wants a creepy doll baby if it doesn’t “come with thangs”?

Clementine Baby Monkey Doll

Because who doesn’t need a terrifying and macabre baby monkey doll that looks like a prop from Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, right?


So Truly Real Weighted And Fully Poseable Baby Monkey Doll

Boy Baby Doll 10 Inch

The machine-translated description on Amazon says it all: “hand can knead move; doll limbs can activity, can sit and lie, can shower with baby together, eyes, eyes can’t closed”. Which is probably how you’ll end up talking after this Stepford Baby from the Beyond has stared you down for a while.

Cute Little Boy Baby Doll 10inch


Why Make a Child Robot At All?

A perfectly reasonable question. And sadly, Artificial Intelligence may have it right, with the answer “So you can set it on fire, and shoot it from a catapult, of course!”

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