Uh, robot: stuttering Figure 01 sends viewers into uncanny valley

The latest demonstration of the OpenAI-powered Figure 01 humanoid robot, complete with filler sounds, has left commentators both fascinated and unnerved.

A new video posted on social media by Californian robotics startup Figure shows its humanoid robot engaging in a hyper-realistic conversation with a person while carrying out small tasks.

In the video, the robot is first requested to describe what it “sees” and does so accurately. The human interlocutor then asks the robot if they could have something to eat, and Figure passes them an apple.

It is then asked to explain why it did what it did while putting trash in a basket. The robot proceeds with the trash while responding: “So, I gave you the apple because it’s the only, uh, edible item I could provide you with.”

As it finishes the sentence, the robot smoothly pushes the trash basket towards the human, who next tells the machine to decide what to do with some dishes in front of it. It moves on to put the dishes into the dish rack while continuing to stutter slightly as it speaks.

“I… uh, I think, I did pretty well,” the robot concludes after being asked to evaluate the demonstration.

The exchange was variously described as “seriously unbelievable,” “amazing,” and “pretty damn impressive” in the video’s comments section on YouTube, but also “shocking” and “creepy.”

“The ‘uh’ before saying ‘edible’ blew my mind for some reason. Very human-like,” one user said.

“It's impressive how he pushes the basket in the direction of the human after putting the rubbish in. That's incredibly natural,” said another.

For some viewers, however, the way Figure 01 spoke and moved was a little bit too human-like, with one user on X claiming the demonstration was “piloted and scripted.”

However, Figure said that “everything in this video is a neural network.” It said that OpenAI models “provide high-level visual and language intelligence” and “Figure neural networks deliver fast, low-level, dexterous robot actions.”

A video posted earlier this year demonstrated Figure 01 making coffee, which the company said it did “only using neural networks.”

Figure AI is backed by ChatGPT-maker OpenAI and Microsoft, and also counts Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and AI chip maker Nvidia among its investors. It has also recently entered into a partnership with BMW to deploy humanoid robots at the automaker’s manufacturing facility in South Carolina.

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