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Robots Dance Their Way Into Uncanny Valley, Next Stop: Your Heart


Japan's AIST has impressed us before with its android robots, but this new video of gynoid HPR4C is enough to...well, seriously give us the shivers. She's dancing, and if you squint, you'd almost mistake her for a real girl.

Only back in September we covered android HRP4, and his amazingly dextrous limbs—he was, we suggested, a little like the fore-runner to some of the simple 'bots in Will Smith's film of I, Robot. It looks like AIST has taken some of the thinking of HRP4 and added it into the HRP4C gynoid they've been working on, since the robot is now so convincingly smooth-moved that it easily surpasses the mechanical (sorry!) moves we're used to from other humanoid 'bots like Asimo. The slickness of the 'bots movements have been aided by a new choreographing package that ensures the machine can't fall over.

How smooth? Check out HRP4C dancing. 

Now rewind it, squint a little, and watch again: You'll almost be able to mistake the 'bot for one of the real dancers on the stage. Uncanny valley, ladies and gentlemen—HRP4C is busy dancing her way in here, and if the trend continues we can imagine future HRPx units dancing out the other side with a realism and finesse that may even be enough to move you emotionally if you saw them performing live. Clues to this come from another dancer robot we've seen recently—the robot swan Robocygne. It's technically not so advanced as HRP4C (whose hopping from foot-to-foot will have impressed those among you who know how hard it is to get a robot—or even Britney Spears—to do that) but it's been choreographed very passionately.

Combine the thinking behind HRP4C and Robocygne, add in Asimo's spatial awareness, navigation skills and voice recognition powers, plus a better version of that creepy robot mouth that Stephen Colbert raves about, and you'd get an android that thousands of people would buy right now to help them around the home or workplace. 

To keep up with this news, and more like it, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter.