The Sound of Science - 'The Uncanny Valley'

Jan 10, 2020

Sam: Welcome to The Sound of Science on WNIJ. I’m Sam from NIU STEM Outreach. And with me is Jeremy. Today we’re going to venture into the Uncanny Valley. 

Jeremy: The Uncanny Valley is the curve of a graph that describes people’s appreciation of a creation that mimics humanity. At a certain point, the mimicry isn’t quite good enough and it causes a negative gut reaction. Something that is clearly a cutesy cartoon is fine, so is a movie about a clone, but a rubbery-faced robot with cold dead eyes is just too weird.

NIU STEM Outreach

Sam: And that applies to digital constructs as well, like chatbots. Some of them sound a bit too human. It also applies to AI. We all think we know what Artificial Intelligence is, but we don’t have true AI yet. We’ve seen Watson destroy humans on Jeopardy, and Sophia the robot is officially a citizen of Saudi Arabia

Jeremy: However Watson is just a giant databank of facts and Sophia is just a chatbot with a face. They are both considered Weak AI. Some describe them not as artificial intelligence, but as Augmented Intelligence

Sam: They are truly complex machines, but everything they know is based off of manually inputting information or predesigned machine learning. Their reactions are made by creating countless If/Then statements to create formulated responses. 

Jeremy: AI today are still all using complex algorithms to fill in gaps of knowledge. That’s not enough to truly get out of the Uncanny Valley. To get from Augmented Intelligence to Artificial Intelligence, they’ll need to plan, learn, convey what they know, reason, make judgement calls, and deal with uncertainty. And more importantly, they’ll need to do all of these at the same time to complete a real-world problem they face.

Sam: So essentially become human without physiological processes?

Jeremy: Yeah, basically. We’re getting closer and closer, but we’re not there yet.

Sam: Do you have a burning question or a topic you want to explore? Send us an email at and we’ll continue augmenting your intelligence here on The Sound of Science on WNIJ

Jeremy: Where you learn something new every day.