If you’ve spent much time reading about robots (or even just CGI), you’ve probably heard of the Uncanny Valley, the usual name applied to the weird disconnect we feel when we look at something that’s almost, but not quite human. Today, two occupants of that plot of conceptual real estate collided with each other in spectacular fashion, when half-man, half-bellowing bag of wind Piers Morgan unsuccessfully attempted to hit on a robot.
Designed by Hanson Robotics as a “social robot,” the device known as Sofia can (awkwardly) chat with people about various topics, while simultaneously creeping them out with her almost-human face. Sofia recently showed off her conversational skills on Morgan’s morning news show, Good Morning Britain, and the results were pretty weird on both sides.
In Morgan’s defense, his clearly creeped out co-anchor, Laura Tobin, makes it clear that at least some of the questions the show’s crew ask Sofia in the video above were provided for them. Still, there’s something unsettling about hearing Morgan ask “How would you handle a very confident man who likes the sound of his own voice?” of a creature that only shows the barest signifiers of sentience. (At least Sofia’s programmers had the good sense not to have her buy into the host’s questionable charms.)
This isn’t the first time Sofia has had an awkward encounter with a TV talk show host; a few months ago, she showed up on The Tonight Show, where Jimmy Fallon proceeded to treat her to his usual flop-sweat approach to human interaction. (Also, like Morgan, he asked her if she knew any jokes, showing that whatever repository of humor Sofia draws from is largely concerned with comedy about cheese.)