The strange robots of uncanny valley

Sophia the robot has become a celebrity of sorts in the past few months, but for many people, there’s just something about the way Sophia carries herself that is unsettling.

This uneasiness can be attributed to a phenomenon referred to as uncanny valley, where the near-identical resemblance of a humanoid robot or computer-generated figure to a human awakens a sense of unease or revulsion in some people.

If you think Sophia is strange, you haven’t seen some of the other robots scientists and engineers have come up with. Some of these will haunt your dreams.

A robotic human mouth

When it isn’t attached to a body, any orifice seems creepy. Enter the robotic human mouth developed by engineers at Kagawa University in Japan. It has a silicon mouth, a nasal cavity and eight vocal chords that allow it to talk and even sing. This is one lullaby you probably don’t want to hear before bedtime.


This isn’t your average doll. Developed at Osaka University in Japan, this child-like robot was built to study human-like cognitive development in robots. It’ll give you the willies.


The same university that developed CB2 also created this robot, and based on the physical appearance of Osaka University’s professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, it is a perfect example of the uncanny valley phenomenon.


The Tokyo University of Science developed this robot to teach science and technology to a class of 10-year-olds in Tokyo. We bet they were perfectly still during the entire lesson.


While it’s not a humanoid robot, SpotMini’s likeness to man’s best friend has us thinking twice about its loyalties. According to its developers at Boston Dynamics, SpotMini operates autonomously. Although its use isn’t exactly clear yet, it was modelled on a previous version called BigDog, which was developed to carry heavy loads over rough terrain.

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