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Charting the Uncanny Valley
April 28, 2008 1:02 PM   Subscribe

Charting the Uncanny Valley [2 3 4 5 6 7] is a thorough explanation of Masahiro Mori's hypothesis. Of course, if you're short on time, there's always 30 Rock.

[Previously]
posted by PM (44 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Are we talking about that guy's hair?
posted by delmoi at 1:08 PM on April 28, 2008 [3 favorites]


Placing Michael Jackson on the right side slope of uncanny valley. Very good.

Thanks for explaining that 30 rock reference.

Btw watching that 30 rock episode I really regretted never having seen Amadeus.
posted by jouke at 1:13 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


No thank you, already ate!

Win!
posted by From Bklyn at 1:14 PM on April 28, 2008


David Hanson has set a goal that eventually, robots will be part of our everyday lives and believes that once they are gradually integrated, the Uncanny Valley will cease to be an issue. He's easing into it slowly by tackling Robokind, the first model of which is based on his own two-year-old son. People seem to like it. Zeno's blog. The real Zeno, with his dad.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:17 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm waiting for the big reveal that the presenter is actually a robot. I guess it ain't gonna happen.
posted by joelf at 1:25 PM on April 28, 2008


The 30 Rock mention of the Uncanny Valley, complete with a pretty good explanation (and the diagram from the wikipedia page!) was a real weird-out moment for me.
posted by Artw at 1:26 PM on April 28, 2008


That Zeno thing is a Chucky doll incident waiting to happen. Uh-uh.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 1:26 PM on April 28, 2008


When robots are an every day part of our lives I’d much rather they look more like R2D2 than a real human. Other than the ReallyAmazinglyRealDoll™, I mean.

And that 30 Rock scene made me love that show even more. I can’t imagine they ever explained the uncanny valley on Everybody Loves Raymond. “Explain it to me in Star Wars.” Brilliant. Tina, you get a pass on Baby Momma.
posted by bondcliff at 1:29 PM on April 28, 2008


That guy's hair looks like a really bad clipping path.
posted by Kabanos at 1:50 PM on April 28, 2008


I'm going to have to wait till I get home to really dig into these videos, but I've always found that the easiest way to explain the uncanny valley effect was to show someone an example of it, and when they ask why it's freaking them out, just explain that their mind is seeing all the things that aren't human in that human face, and it's like a dissonant note in their brain.

The only problem is that sometimes, at the extreme edge of the valley, it's hard to see what exactly it is that isn't right. Maybe the eyes aren't focused correctly, or the skin is too glassy or something, and our mind isn't telling us that it's not real, just that it's not right. That it is sick or damaged or something.

And still, other times, I wonder if we have actually figured out ways past the valley.
posted by quin at 1:51 PM on April 28, 2008


The folks objecting to the lack of "lifelike-enough humanoid robots" are, I think, ignoring this effect in CG-everything. (Noted, without a cite, in the Wikipedia article).

Of course, from that same article I now know the word "gynoid^" which, while strictly rational and built from logical rules with a clear and specific meaning... is giving me the linguistic equivalent of an uncanny valley revulsion.
posted by abulafa at 2:08 PM on April 28, 2008


pimping my own post about the uncanny valley involving humanly plastic Pussycat Dolls and plastically human Real Dolls
posted by liza at 2:15 PM on April 28, 2008


You know what freaks me the hell out? Those dolls that look like a toddler with it’s backed turned to you hiding it’s face, and from the corner of your eye they resemble a real child. And then if you take a look at you it has no face. They seem to be popular with people who buy things from craft fairs and such. Why would such horrible things exist? And why would people deliberately own them.
posted by Artw at 2:19 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I noticed this same effect with other things when I was in college. For instance, if someone mixes you a decent screwdriver, it tastes like a decent screwdriver, and more or less like orange juice. However, if someone mixes you orange juice with just a little bit of vodka in it, sudden;y the vodka is all you (or at least I) can taste, likely because I'm comparing it to the taste of straight juice and something seems severely out of place.

Likewise with some songs on Guitar Hero, when the cover version is close but just not-quite-close enough, it can be very off-putting in a repulsive way, but only, of course, if you are very familiar with the original.

Great amounts of "Blink" by Malcolm Gladwell, deal with this phenomenon.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:26 PM on April 28, 2008


Psychologist has no idea what causes the uncanny valley effect, but talks about it for ten minutes or so, failing to synthesize the available research in any interesting way or to distinguish adequately between innate response and social conditioning, while conflating (in his explanations at least) unfamiliarity with uncannyness. Film on YouTube. Yawn.
posted by xchmp at 2:26 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Artw: "You know what freaks me the hell out? Those dolls that look like a toddler with it’s backed turned to you hiding it’s face, and from the corner of your eye they resemble a real child. And then if you take a look at you it has no face. They seem to be popular with people who buy things from craft fairs and such. Why would such horrible things exist? And why would people deliberately own them."

My aunt had one of those. And she put it in the goddamned bedroom.

*shivers*
posted by Rhaomi at 2:39 PM on April 28, 2008


My personal uncanny valley lives within those fake sleeping dogs. Specifically, the ones that don't breath.

Because, at a glance, they look real enough to fool the casual observer, but anyone who watches for more than a second notices the absence of movement on it's sides and then thinks, 'fuck, it's dead!'.

And the ones that breath are even worse, for all the same reasons.

My co-worker has one.

I don't like it.
posted by quin at 3:00 PM on April 28, 2008


Wake up yawner! That's the hallmark of a self-reflective process, which is resonance among nervous systems as we level jump to the no-o-sphere. Yee haw! We're emerging yet again.
posted by stonepharisee at 3:01 PM on April 28, 2008


quin, those fake sleeping dogs are disturbing. But not quite as disturbing as another product listed on that page: Liquid Ass!

Note the ass font on the packaging.

I've heard of an uncanny valley, but this is ridiculous!
posted by PM at 3:13 PM on April 28, 2008


Why would someone make this?

?????
posted by Artw at 3:27 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's appropriate that this video series was hosted by the uncanny valley version of Crispin Glover.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:46 PM on April 28, 2008


What exactly did the guy giving this little talk add to our understanding of an uncanny valley? As far as I can tell, he just regurgitated well known facts with a few anecdotes about people involved in work on androids and robotics. It was like a 5th grade book report except with better vocabulary.
posted by Justinian at 3:46 PM on April 28, 2008


Justinian and xchmp: I posted this because I thought it was a very solid explanation of the uncanny valley for those who may not be familiar, not because I thought it contained novel insights.

Astro Zombie: I'm pretty sure Crispin Glover is the uncanny valley version of Crispin Glover.
posted by PM at 3:50 PM on April 28, 2008


I'm not complaining about your post, PM; It was a good post.
posted by Justinian at 3:52 PM on April 28, 2008


> Btw watching that 30 rock episode I really regretted never having seen Amadeus.

Amadeus is for people who like celebrity gossip and don't care beans for music. It begins many, many pieces by W.A.M. and then, just as you settle back to enjoy one of them, the actors talk over it like DJs trying to keep people from recording it off the air, or they just chop it off in the middle and cut away to something else, leaving the bleeding hunk behind. Or some other stunt like that.

People who didn't come for the music and don't already know it well simply don't notice this--it's movie music, right? And movie music was born to be talked over and cut up into chunks to exactly fit into the time intervals where it's needed. That's just what you do to movie music. Well, NOT TO MOZART YOU DON'T!

Think of a large, trusting dog to which you hold out your chicken leg, only to jerk it away at the last second so that it's mouth chomps down on empty air and goes POP. That's Amadeus. And they do it OVER and OVER and OVER again.

/rant /derail
posted by jfuller at 4:29 PM on April 28, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wow, another reason why Amadeus is awesome!
posted by Artw at 4:31 PM on April 28, 2008


Good artw. Want a chicken leg?
posted by jfuller at 4:36 PM on April 28, 2008


Rawf!
posted by Artw at 4:37 PM on April 28, 2008


I think more people would enjoy things like Mozart or Shakespeare if we'd treat them like they should be treated; really, really good entertainment. Mozart and Shakespeare were writing or performing the popular entertainment of their day, no different than Jay-Z, the Stones, David Mamet, or Jerry Bruckheimer.

Mozart should be enjoyed, not put on a fucking holy pedestal and declared inviolate like jfuller seems to want to do. Ditto Shakespeare.
posted by Justinian at 4:41 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


I dunno, when things are put on a holy pedestal and declared inviolate it just makes doing horrible things like Amadeus to them more fun.
posted by Artw at 4:42 PM on April 28, 2008


I feel awful for listing Jerry Bruckheimer. As far as I can tell he doesn't actually do anything, unlike Mozart or Shakespeare. So bad me, no biscuit.
posted by Justinian at 4:48 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


He is the doer of the horrible things!
posted by Artw at 4:49 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


And still, other times, I wonder if we have actually figured out ways past the valley.

That picture is great, but rendering it that well puts a much larger burden on the animation. For still images we seem to have gotten to the point where you can throw more and more processor time at it and get something realistic. For movies, all else being equal, that only puts you farther down the valley.
posted by Gary at 5:04 PM on April 28, 2008


I read that as "He is the door of horrible things" which made me laugh out loud, picturing Bruckheimer as this Lovecraftian chamber of dripping evil and slow motion explosions that can only be unlocked by the most wretched and diseased Hollywood scripts.
h, the hilarious horror.
posted by mikoroshi at 5:05 PM on April 28, 2008


It's appropriate that this video series was hosted by the uncanny valley version of Crispin Glover.

I was actually thinking of David Lynch myself. I half-expected a midget talking backwards to pop out from behind a curtain.
posted by jonp72 at 5:45 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why would someone make this?

I get that people would try to make animatronic sleeping dogs. I mean, as a lark, as a one-off thing, as an experiment. "Hey look, I made this animatronic sleeping dog, isn't that freaky? You should hire me for your film/art project/talent show/horror show/cocktail party/whatever!"

What really freaks me out is the people who buy them. And put them places. It freaks me out almost as much as the thought of one of my parents getting Alzheimer's or something and their personality completely changing (or worse, making them juvenile). It's this visceral, painful horror that I have a hard time describing - an intense feeling that something is very, very wrong... sort of uncanny valley, sort of something else.

Buh. I want to call my mom and make sure she's okay now. I don't know if anyone else has this same loose category of ... I don't know, phobias? but it's all along the same continuum for me.
posted by blacklite at 6:22 PM on April 28, 2008


It's... DAS UNHEIMLICHE!
posted by Artw at 9:13 PM on April 28, 2008


Nice addition artw
posted by jouke at 10:03 PM on April 28, 2008


I just checked out this thread to make sure that Tina Fey was real.

Phew.
posted by rokusan at 10:54 PM on April 28, 2008


Artw: You know what freaks me the hell out? Those dolls that look like a toddler with it’s backed turned to you hiding it’s face, and from the corner of your eye they resemble a real child. And then if you take a look at you it has no face.

OK, now I'm desperately curious. Anyone have a link for one of these things? From Artw's description they sound nightmarish.
posted by Harald74 at 12:57 AM on April 29, 2008


Here you go, Harald74. They are apparently called "time-out dolls".
posted by squarehead at 8:15 AM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks, Squarehead! That is freaky!

Text from the first link: Lean them up against a chair, or bed, put them in the corner, or in the car!!

Yeah, that last suggestion can not possibly lead to trouble at all...
posted by Harald74 at 12:59 PM on April 29, 2008


And just to remind everyone, they have no faces!
posted by Artw at 5:31 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Uncanny Valley of the Dolls!
posted by Kabanos at 11:31 AM on May 1, 2008


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