Wednesday, October 05, 2005

the uncanny valley - emotional responses to human forms

Here's an article I've seen referenced many times online and thought I'd bring up here that's somewhat relevant to week nine. It references what the author has termed The Uncanny Valley. It's essentially the moment that humanoid designs move from eliciting positive emotional responses to negative. The theory goes like this: when creating a robot (or alternatively a CGI humanoid for a movie, game, etc.) possible designs range from completely robotic in appearance to attempting to completely simulate reality, with many grey spaces in between. While designs are within the "somewhat human" range the response from those viewing it are generally positive. But once things become almost human the response shifts quickly into the negative, androids seem creepy and unsettling because they're eyes don't shine quite right would be an example of this.

Another, frequently cited example of this is the CGI film Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within where although the amount of detail that's been put into the characters is very detailed seeing them kiss is still unsettling. In contrast animations done by Pixar are frequently purposefully skewed away from appearing to human, giving them a cartoon-like appearance and steering safely to the not-to-real side of the valley. For more information on this phenomenon you can check out the wikipedia article here. What do you think of this? Are there examples of things that manage to be incredible lifelike, human and not creepy?


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