For a few seconds, I wondered what was going on in this video – was it a man doing face exercises? Was it another ‘electrically stimulated‘ face experiment? Well, it’s the Geminoid DK, and it’s not actually human (which you can tell after a few moments). For those first few seconds, however, I was uncertain – and that uncertainty is a clear flag that the creators have managed to take the first great steps out of the uncanny valley of terrifying near-human forms.
I think it’s a fantastic breakthrough. The first Geminoid was the (fairly well known) Japanese built ‘double’ of the creator, Prof. Hiroshi Ishiguro – and I was not particularly fooled by that version. This most recent version was created by the same Japanese team (Kokoro) on request from a professor, Dr. Henrik Scharfe from Denmark – hence the ‘DK’ suffix.
The FAQ on the Geminoid DK is particularly interesting – the confusion where people ask if it’s really the Doctor in a photograph, journalists asking just how ‘complete’ the android is, and other unexpected questions. It’s possible that I’m using the word android wrongly here – it’s more like a computer assisted puppet, I believe, but I’m stubborn and will call it an android nonetheless.
I particularly like the video where the Geminoid DK expresses the first glimmer of a smile – and all the build team laugh; half with nerves, and half with relief. I know just that mix when your project, that you’ve been working on for so long, finally works and surprises you all.