Photo by Eddi Aguirre on Unsplash

Tuesday November 30th 2021, 10:00am – 12:00pm AEDT (Australian Eastern Daylight Time)

About the event

Robots in popular culture draw on a range of cultural figures, motifs, and ideas that help to shape their public perception. Social robot researchers have identified a specific Japanese robot aesthetic that makes use of a generally favourable attitude towards the integration of robots into society. How have these socio-cultural influences shaped the way that robots have been taken up in Japan? In what ways do these guide the relationships and affinity that people have with robots in their introduction and use? This public event explores the acceptance of social robots, shining light on Japanese cultural perspectives. 

Speaker 1: Karl MacDorman (Associate Professor, Indiana University, USA) 

Title: The Uncanny Valley: A Retrospective


In 1970, Masahiro Mori wrote ‘Bukimi no tani genshō’ (The Uncanny Valley). In this essay, he proposed an N-shaped relation between human likeness and affinity. The relation predicts affinity for real people and humanoid robots but aversion for robots that appear too human. This retrospective considers the development of the concept. It sets the stage with Chikamatsu Monzaemon’s (1653–1724) interview on theater criticism. His theory—drawing on puppet theater and kabuki—divides realism into four zones: the unreal, conceptual realism, surface realism, and the real. The unreal lacks authenticity; surface realism lacks soul; the real lacks expressiveness. For him, it is conceptual realism that engenders empathy to captivate the audience. The talk next considers how the uncanny valley has flowered as a scientific field from 2005 and the breadth of research now conducted.

*A short message from Professor Emeritus Masahiro Mori (who is 94 years old) will be read out to celebrate both the 50th anniversary of the publication of his oft-cited essay ‘The Uncanny Valley‘ (1970), and the 10th anniversary of the English translation of the essay by Dr MacDorman and Ms. Norri Kageki (2012). (Prof. Mori’s comments have been translated by Ms. Kageki.)  


Karl F. MacDorman is Associate Dean at the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing. He was previously an associate professor at the School of Engineering at Osaka University. He received his bachelor’s and Ph.D. in computer science from U.C., Berkeley and Cambridge, respectively. He has published more than 100 papers on human–robot interaction, machine learning, and cognitive science. His main research interests include android science, cognitive developmental robotics, symbol grounding, and the uncanny valley.

Speaker 2: Tomotaka Takahashi (CEO, Robo Garage and the founder, Marine-X, Japan)

Title: The Creation of a New Robot Era


This presentation discusses how we can create a consumer robot industry. So many companies, even Google, have failed to create this market, even when people deserve this product. As Amazon has just announced their new home robot, I still believe consumer robots will be the biggest innovation since the first i-phone was presented. I will talk about how we can design the robot itself and robot business to create a future lifestyle with robots. 


Tomotaka Takahashi is the Founder and CEO of ‘Robo Garage’, and the Founder of ‘Marine-X’. His inventions include a robot smartphone ‘RoBoHoN’, a kit magazine ‘Robi’, the RoboCup winner ‘Vision’, Robot Astronaut ‘Kirobo’, and the popular Grand Canyon climbing Panasonic TVCM ‘Evolta’. (Both Kirobo & Evolta hold 4 Guinness Book World Records.) He is also a Research Associate Professor at The University of Tokyo and Visiting Professor of Osaka Electro-Communication University. He has won several awards including TIME magazine’s “Coolest Inventions” (2004) and Popular Science magazine’s “33 persons changing the future”. He leads ‘Team Osaka’, which had won the RoboCup (robot soccer) world championship from 2004 to 2008. 

Supported by: Toshiba International Foundation (TIFO), Sydney Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Systems (SIRIS, the University of Sydney), and the Department of Media, Communications, Creative Arts, Language and Literature (MCCALL, Macquarie University)

Event organisers: Dr Yuji Sone (Macquarie University) and Dr Naoko Abe (University of Sydney)

Advisor: Dr Justine Humphry (University of Sydney), Special thanks to A/P Arisa Ema (University of Tokyo)


Australian Centre for Robotics