Monthly Archives: July 2009

PhD Mindmap

I have been working on a Visio VML mind map or org chart for the last few weeks as an attempt to put all the relevent information together in one place, which can also be searched and linked online. This database can be found here or from the link PHD Pages in my BLOGROLL found at the bottom of the right column. I will of course be adding and removing on a regular basis.

The Uncanny Valley – again?

I just wanted to publish this link to another interesting take on the uncanny valley – will follow up later!

Social Construction of Emotions (Fear?)

After reading some of  Freud’s essay the ‘The Uncanny’ I have been fascinated with the concept of the social construction of emotions (ie Durkheim) and found some interesting papers/chapters – Human Evolution and Social Cognition and a Google book link here. I also found a paper I would like to read here regarding Durkheim. Also need to read a book called the Handbook of Emotions. The interest or thread was taken from an earlier post regarding our responses to snakes, are they evolutionary cognitive constructs or are our responses constructed for someone/everyone elses consumption? Also worth noting that Cognitive-behaviour therapy has been reputed to have been particularly successful with phobia’s or extreme fear. An important question to ask here could be; is the ‘uncanny valley’ socially constructed? I clearly need to investigate further and finish off the Freud and Jentsch papers in conjunction with the links above. I will definitely need to get a copy of  Mori’s ‘The Buddah in the Robot’ (see Books section). Another question to ask is whether Human Geography would perceive social construction itself as a space – which could put a new and clearer perspective on the discipline for me? I will consult Thrift!

The New Technological Self

Looks pretty convincing to me?

Cultural Human Geography, Social Construction or lack of it and Human Robot Interaction all simultaneously leap to mind here!

More Humanoids!!!!

Humanoid Robotics seems to take big steps forward when they collaborate – below is a video of Albert HUBO, a collaboration of Hanson Robotics who specialise in facial robotics and the HUBO project from The Korean Advanced Institute of Science. This humanoid robot project has also developed and trialed powering the Robot by a DMFC (similar to Hydrogen) fuel cell, which has been an enduring enigma throughout Robotics.

The next video demonstrates just how close we are to having a fully functioning, auto or self powered Android – they may still need to wear a large cell or pack on their backs though – so they’re a little way off walking, talking RealDolls yet. This Actroid, as it’s creators call it, also highlights the sexually orientated design similarities with the RealDolls and of course invokes the implications of Mori’s Uncanny Valley. It may be however, that we all have our own individual responses to the ‘uncanny valley’ which in turn is being shaped by cyberculture? The very notion that one could purchase a personally acceptable female android as a sexual and domestic ‘partner’ for an affordable price was completely unthinkable only a few years ago and yet after a brief search on the internet this concept is very close to fruition. The concept that a machine could also be subject to considerations of slavery is salient here!

The first question that springs to mind is regarding the snake and whether it’s own similar ‘uncanny valley’ already exists;  not in the same way as Frankenstein’s monster or RealDolls could, but in it’s own right as a biological entity and in particular our possible evolutionary response to snakes – namely fear, fight or flight? Could or indeed does a Snake like Robot induce the same or a similar level of basic cognitive responses – I think it may be very interesting and commercially prudent to find out? – Particularly regarding the development and design of the snake skin?

I also came across ROVIO, a web based surveillance robot which can be remotely steered around domestic spaces and has a microphone and speakers allowing live communication. With a snake-arm attached to this elegant little robot, it could very easily provide live information for remote medical and care purposes. The developments here are also numerous and open the door for OC Robotics snake-arm as an invaluble and sophisticated attachment to many domestic, medical and care orientated robotics projects, a consideration OC Robotics have demonstarted with their support for this research. The SLUGBot is another project in dire need of a snake-arm to make it commercially viable and the collaboration of technologies therefore seems to be the key for current commercial progress and success for robots in general but perhaps even more so for the snake-arm in domestic spaces?

Lastly, my initial look and observations of Humanoid Robots could be described as a little obvious and even perhaps just an identification of the lowest common denominators, however from a commercial perspective it would appear that men dominate robotics and presently hold the sway or power over robotic developments as well as the monopoly on silicon sex slaves ably demonstrated by the astronomical sales projections of RealDolls. Could we be entering the age of ‘complete’ mysgonistic individualism aided by robotic technology? – Kenneth Gergen has some convincing arguments here regarding ‘the technological self’.

Humanoid Robots & Diverse Domestic Spaces?

I found this great article on ROBOTS.NET  regarding Robotic skin, some of the examples are actually now available as a commercial or industrial product.

After watching the following documentary on RealDolls I can begin to understand the current pre-occupation with realism in contemporary Humanoid Robotics – RealDolls are currently selling 7 dolls a week for approximately $6000 each, both male and female versions are available. It’s a rather strange, voyeuristic take on what could be described as a product for filling a need for people who have Human Interaction issues, both complex and sexual. I found the documentary to be a little challenging but without bias and clearly compelling and topical for my project…….. if a little disturbing!  The link is HERE – embedding has not been allowed.

There’s a good article HERE in the Times, regarding ROBOETHICS, which raises some obvious concerns for the future of Sexbots. Could the Humanoid Robot industry be financed by the Sex industry – in much the same way as the internet has been? After all capitalism has no shame or inhibitions!

I also found an online feminist take on the documentary HERE, the comments are particularly interesting – mainly for the tolerant and accepting views expressed. Link to Laslocky (2005) paper.

How long before RealDolls move into Robotics? – Well they are already offering an ‘Interactive sensory response system’ and robotic actuated gyrating hips – so the answer is – they have already started.

There’s another interesting article here and a trailer for ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ here, a recent comedy written by Six Feet Under author Nancy Oliver.

New Scientist

I have recently re-discovered the New Scientist web site with a few links to some interesting and useful social and biomimetically inspired robotics.

Click the picture for a link to the relative reports!




Exeter University

Click picture for panoramic view


I finally registered for my PhD yesterday at Exeter University and I am extremely impressed, it’s a fantastic university in the best part of the country with some real academic heavyweights in place, particularly in Human Geography. The campus is also a Botanical Garden and really very beautiful and inspiring.


The Streatham Campus has some incredible sculptures, if you click the picture the link will take you on a sculpture tour. I also visited the library where I will definitely be  found throughout the first year as I prepare my literature review and thesis proposal.

Home at last!!!