The Story of the Raven and the Robot*


The aim of this paper is to study the relationship of companion robots to the uncanny, using popular depictions of these robots. I start by presenting a few companion robots (§1), then try and define the idea of companion robots (using advertisements for these robot in §2 and with reference to M. Mori’s hypothesis about the “Uncanny Valley” in §3). From Hoffmann’s “Der Sandmann,” humanlike machines have been associated with uncanniness. On the contrary, companion robots are designed to be the least uncanny creatures or the most endearing ones. Of course, it is a bit uncanny to specifically design un-uncanny creatures. In the second half of my paper (§4, §5, §6, and §7), I discuss various scenes of our life with robots where the uncanny seems to creep back again. In fact, the companion robot is, as in Poe’s poem, our contemporary Raven, with which a bond is formed that will be lifted–nevermore.

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