We want our robots to be human-like but not too much.
Our ability to shape our environment to our will makes humankind unique. We create shelter where there is non, route water to where we need it, light up the dark, and move mountains if needed. This is, of course, a double-edged sword; on the one hand, we make remarkable strides forward, but often these strides come at the expense of the environment itself.
But one thing is sure - the modern world is designed for humans. Mostly for humans with two legs and two working arms (but we do try to make it accessible to everyone). Our modern world is full of stairs, handles, buttons, knobs, and many other devices designed exclusively for humans.
That is why, if we ever want to live alongside robots, they need to be able to navigate and interact with this human-centric world. And the best way to do it is to design them like us. Make them more human.
A robot with articulated arms can open doors, pour water from a faucet, hang laundry, handle a broom, use kitchen appliances and do pretty much anything a human can. So instead of re-organizing our world to accommodate robots better, we can design humanoid robots that will feel right at home in our… well, home.
But there is a fine line between a humanoid robot and a robot that looks like a human. Over the past decades, we have seen many attempts at designing “The most realistic-looking robot,” and nine times out of ten, the results have been absolutely horrifying.
When actors playing androids in movies and TV shows act robotic, the results are intriguing and make us want to see lifelike androids in real life. But when actual robots try to act human, the results a terrifying and immediately trigger our “uncanny valley” detector. They just feel… wrong.
Human-shaped robots are the future; there is no doubt about it. But robots that are indistinguishable from humans? Those should probably be kept in the realm of science fiction.