SWAN of the Week, No 119

Happy Friday!

Have you ever felt like you need to be in multiple places at once?

A Russian startup launched serial production of unique life-like robots that not only look like you and mimic your facial expressions, but also can work for you. So now it’s technically possibly to be in two places at once. Well, kind of…

Based in the Russian city of Perm, Promobot says its humanoid bots, called Android Robo-C, can replace humans in the office and even at home. The android can answer people’s questions in shopping centers and museums, be an administrator or an office employee, and greet visitors and communicate with them, according to the maker. However, it won’t be working much longer than a human – its battery only lasts eight hours before it needs to be re-charged. (source: RT)

There’s this really fun tension between mechanomorphism (machine characteristics in humans) and anthropomorphism (human characteristics in machines) that these types of news stories leverage to get clicks, but the technology isn’t actually helping advance society or technology very well.

The term “uncanny valley” refers to the unsettling and sometimes revolting feeling people experience when we encounter humanoid robots. It can be a fun tension to play with in movies and clickbait, but when it comes to real life, we have a visceral reaction to this type of pseudo-human. It turns out we don’t actually need to clone ourselves as robots to answer people’s questions or greet people. Just like the Notepad on my phone doesn’t actually need to have yellow lines like a paper notepad. Robots don’t need to look like humans, and yet we’re fascinated and disgusted by these kinds of attempts.

We’re going to see A LOT more faux human robots in our lifetime. Just hopefully not a clone of yourself answering questions in shopping malls and museums.

Beyond a fascination with robot clones this week, I had the opportunity to share a presentation and lead a conversation about TikTok at a Social Media Shepherds event in Minneapolis. I’ve been bullish on the emerging social media platform for the last year, and it’s been fun to see brands and organizations starting to experiment and engage Gen Z on social media in ways beyond ads, Instagram and Snapchat. If you haven’t yet signed up for TikTok, here’s how to get started.

See you on the internet!