A first date in the uncanny valley: 2 humanoid robots flirt in bizarre video

A first date in the uncanny valley: 2 humanoid robots flirt in bizarre video
In case robots still don't creep you out enough, two of them got together in Russia for a chat at a digital conference. Their awkward flirting sounded unsettlingly human-like.

Two Russian robots – Gagarin, created by the Robotics Institute at Innopolis University in Kazan, and Alisa Zelenogradova, a gynoid robot created by Neurorobotics in Zelenograd – met at an open conference in Innopolis. The two seemed to click instantly.

Gagarin didn't seem very gentlemanly during the exchange, remaining seated in front of the cybernetic lady due to his design limitations: he is essentially little more than a head stuffed with advanced electronics. This didn't really faze Alisa, though – and neither did all the wiring sticking out of the back of Gagarin's head.

"Do you have a boyfriend?" Gagarin cut to the chase after a brief introduction. "You're so quick," Alisa quipped in return, before apparently running a quick systems scan and reporting: "Boyfriend not found" – the entire exchange was delivered in a calm robotic monotone.

And just to take matters further down the uncanny valley, the two then compared notes on how to mimic human emotions. Blending in to destroy our society from within is out of their reach for now, though: Alisa's impression of surprise was a bare widening of eyes, while Gagarin overdid it with a wide-open mouth and upflung eyebrows. The exposed wiring didn't help either.

Named after the first man in space, Gagarin is a robot that can understand Russian speech and use neural networks to read emotions. He can then use the 30 servomotors built into his face to imitate those emotions. His creators believe this will help him master jobs that involve communicating with people, like a tour guide or a vendor.

Alisa has only 19 servos to provide facial expressions, which could explain her near-perfect poker face. Unlike Gagarin, though, she can be built on a mobile platform, wheeling around to avoid obstacles. Both bots feature eye cameras and ear microphones so they can see and hear their surroundings.

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