Here's a simple fact.
Drone swarms like those seen in this video creep most people out. It feels unnatural. Evil.
Why does this happen?
A good explanation may be found in an idea called "the uncanny valley" developed by the robotics designer Masahiro Mori in the in 1970.
He found, through his work on prosthetics, that people felt comfortable with robotic prosthetics as long as they didn't look too much like real arms, hands, legs, or feet.
IF the prosthetic attempted to look to human-like, it shocked people. It caused revulsion. He found the same was true in the design of robots.
Here's a simplification of the chart he drew depicting the uncanny valley, with zero human likeness of the left and complete human likeness on the right. As you can see, movement amplifies the emotion felt at every stage.
NOTE: This curve explains what makes zombies and the contorted crawls of Japanese horror films so creepy.
What's interesting here is that it may also be an explanation for why drones and drone swarming causes revulsion. However, instead of a revulsion to human likeness, it is a likeness to nature.
Behavior we expect to see in insects, birds and animals but not in machines. The movement of the drones in a swarm serves to amplify the emotional impact (in a negative way).
I suspect if you polled the people in the TED audience about the drone presentation, a majority of them would indicate that they were creeped out by it (at least a little).
Impact of this?
- I wonder how this effect will be used in the future, particularly since the major use of drones today is for warfare.
- IT will certainly turn up in lots of scary movies in the near future.
- It may become barrier to their use in the civilian sector. Fear/revulsion factor.
I'm definitely creeped out by drones, but energized by them too, analyst,
A couple of thoughts as they roll in on e-mail/comments:
a) People were already creeped out by bombers during WW2. True, the buzz/hum of bombers, the shriek of a dive bomber, and the wail of an iron bomb are scary. This has all of that and visuals to boot. This is like the old debate between scary movie enthusiasts over whether it is better to see the evil beast or let your mind fill in the blanks through sounds/glimpses. The best movies do both.
b) Will add more soon.