Just a small note to say that I'm back from HRI and had a good trip. Had a tasty lunch the last day of Peruvian Chicken, Yucca, and a really tasty Chickpea dish (the restaurant was called "Super Pollo"). Met a couple really neat people right before the end of the conference. I'm glad I met them but it would have been nice to do that with time to chat, instead of it being time to leave. By happenstance one of them was on the Metro with me though, so we chatted all the way to the airport. That was nice. :)
One common topic at the conference was Mori's "Uncanny Valley", with is the deep valley in the otherwise upward-sloping curve of how much people like interactive with a robot or toy compared to how human-like it is in appearance and behavior. (There's a decent article on wikipedia, though the picture it has is of an android that I think is actually toward the human-accepted far side of the valley). Basically, as you get more humanlike, there's a more positive response from people, until you hit this valley where the human response is to find it creepy (think "moving corpse"). Hiroshi Ishiguru presented on various androids developed by ATR and Osaka University's Intelligent Robotics Lab, one of which has been used to examine the idea of using androids to improve telepresence. He's also working on an interesting-looking project called the JST Erato Asada Synergistic Intelligence Project. which is working to develop a design methodology for the emergence of human intelligence based on embodiment.