This chapter continues the focus on human-robot interaction (HRI) research with particular attention to the uncanny valley hypothesis. The hypothesis was formulated by the Japanese robotics engineer Masahiro Mori in 1970. It predicts a drop in an otherwise increasing positive emotional responses to artefacts that are more humanlike in physical appearance and movement (see Figure 8.1). Mori gave the example of a prosthetic hand which is deceptively real, but unpleasant and cold when we shake it. The repulsion we might feel upon suddenly realizing its lifelessness is the phenomenon in focus. The
research evidence for its existence is inconclusive. However, the hypothesis’s impact on the discourse of social robotics may lie less in its veracity as a scientific ‘fact’—or even as a scientific hypothesis-than in its narrative power. In a way, it tells a story about what happens when someone meets a robot. The story implied by the uncanny valley hypothesis implicates literarylike representation of the relationship between person, time and place-an element of literary works that Bakhtin termed a chronotope (details later).