How horrific a banal facial expression can be
August 8, 2013 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Parametric Expression: Artist Mike Pelletier's guaranteed-to-induce-nightmares attempt to find beauty in the uncanny valley. Via: There is no plot, no antagonist, just a group of androgynous characters staring, smiling, and baring their teeth in a stilted manner as if they were robots or aliens attempting to act human. [...] “I found the collision of data recorded from the real world, mixed with the frozen expression really triggered the ‘uncanny valley’ effect for me,” he says. “It just highlights a feeling of awkwardness, that something isn’t entirely right, that there’s some sort of translation error happening.
posted by not_the_water (31 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I really really hate this.
posted by slogger at 12:34 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Did Xtranormal get funding?
posted by hal9k at 12:35 PM on August 8, 2013

Thom Yorke's recurring dream, circa 2000.
posted by Beardman at 12:39 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

what? that was awesome! but maybe you're not supposed to laugh your ass off at it? maybe I'm doing it wrong.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:41 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I went from 'aww, this isn't that creepy' to 'FUCKING SHIT WHAT GET IT AWAY *LAPTOP SLAM*' in about half a second.
posted by FirstMateKate at 12:41 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've always wondered what it would look like if wendyvainity had gone to art school
posted by theodolite at 12:42 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

There's a legit data visualization technique that uses parametric facial expressions to represent multivariate data: The Chernoff Face.

Eugene Turner used the technique to create an award-winning and controversial map in the 70s called "Life in LA":

Turner says about it "It is probably one of the most interesting maps I've created because the expressions evoke an emotional association with the data. Some people don't like that."
posted by jjwiseman at 12:51 PM on August 8, 2013 [12 favorites]

Speed up the music, add crazy drums and some screeching, and you've got a passable short Aphex Twin video.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:52 PM on August 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

It just highlights a feeling of awkwardness, that something isn’t entirely right, that there’s some sort of translation error happening.

Yeah, awkward wasn't the adjective that came to mind when their heads exploded into demonic chaos.
posted by Celsius1414 at 12:53 PM on August 8, 2013 [6 favorites]

This strikes me as either "look at this banal thing! I've never seen it before!" or "look at this banal thing, I mean, really look at it, isn't it actually really, really weird?" You've probably seen lots of games where you can design your character's appearance by dragging a slider from "0% smile" to "100% smile" or something. The exploding faces are basically just "9000% smile," where "smile" is defined as a particular trajectory of some points on the surface of the face.
posted by Nomyte at 12:54 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Now I'm wondering why there is no artform where you move your face artistically with music. Like dancing robot, but with your face only. Doing the uncanny valley.
posted by Free word order! at 12:55 PM on August 8, 2013

I really really love this. The freaky parts made me laugh with delight.
posted by maudlin at 12:55 PM on August 8, 2013

Free word order!, there's this facial beatboxing. I also saw a French Canadian guy contorting his face to some classical piece (no wires) years ago, but I can't find it again right now.
posted by maudlin at 12:58 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have this wild urge to replicate this but to map a clown "skin" (clownskinnnn) over the heads and dub in "Games Without Frontiers" over it.

Jeux ... sans fron-ti-eres ... jeux ... sans fron-ti-eres ... jeux ... sans fron-ti-eres
posted by adipocere at 1:08 PM on August 8, 2013

OK, I found it: Paganini for face. (Original author is this guy, but it's not listed in his channel any more. He did put up the William Tell Overture, though).
posted by maudlin at 1:10 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

That was really creeping me out, mainly because I couldn't stop watching it but knew that something unhealthy and possibly permanent was going on in my brain. So I was pressing command+w but those parametric zombies had taken over my laptop. They got an extra five seconds of mind control in before I realized what was going on and closed the window using a trackpad click.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:12 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

The first forty eight seconds were unsettling.

And then a couple of seconds after that...

I clicked stop.
posted by ambivalentic at 1:32 PM on August 8, 2013

Jesus it's not *that* freaky. Have none of you ever seen a Chris Cunningham video, or a Skyrim/Red Dead Redemption glitch compilation on YouTube?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:58 PM on August 8, 2013

I have indeed seen Chris Cunningham videos.

They give me the willies.
posted by ambivalentic at 2:16 PM on August 8, 2013

I wasn't interested in sleeping at all tonight anyway. Thanks.
posted by panboi at 2:23 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I loved/hated that. Are some people more sensitive to the uncanny valley effect than others? I was very aware of being split into two parts, the part that nodded and said "Yes, I see the origin of that mildly interesting effect" and the part that sat frozen stiff, feeling terrible nerve-plucking anxiety radiating down my back and arms and wordlessly praying that The Things wouldn't look directly at me and smiiiiiiiiile.

So obviously the very next thing I did: look at some Chris Cunningham videos. None of the half-dozen clips I watched triggered anything like that atavistic panicky nerve tingle. I don't know why.
posted by Elsa at 2:34 PM on August 8, 2013

Nope, thanks. If anybody needs me I'll be in the puppy room.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 2:58 PM on August 8, 2013

I just really, really wanted to fix it. (Since I have some background in 3D rigging and anatomy.)
posted by heatherfl at 3:50 PM on August 8, 2013

It's the EYES. The evil, evil eyes.

There are no eyebrows.

There are no lashes.

Oh god, the eyes!
posted by BlueHorse at 3:51 PM on August 8, 2013

He really missed a great freakout opportunity. If that head facing the viewer, lolling back and forth, looking around vacantly suddenly looked straight at the camera and then did the 9000% Smile (great term, Nomyte), there'd be a lot more soiled underwear out there right now.

I love how the 9000% Smile ends with a sort of Michael Bay Decepticon face, with eyes formed out of what used to be chin muscles.
posted by straight at 3:57 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

This reminds me of how much I like to turn out the lights and watch the Wyoming incident video right before bed. (No kidding, I do.)
posted by Countess Elena at 4:21 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure what's wrong the smile — generally, with real people, the difference between a fake smile and an authentic smile is around the eyes. When people fake smile, they tend to mostly alter their mouth, whereas an authentic smile involves muscles all over the face, but particularly around the eyes. Whatever is missing from this model's smile, there definitely is something missing because it feels creepily false.

I just did a bit of searching to see what tool he's using — it's MakeHuman. I was particularly interested in whether MakeHuman utilizes the expression description/coding Facial Action Coding System. It seems they developed their own system.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:47 PM on August 8, 2013

I did not even need to watch this to know that I did not need to watch this.
(My 2 am self will thank me.)
posted by whistle pig at 8:30 PM on August 8, 2013

Hey, I made this. Sorry if I caused any lost sleep.
posted by skullbee at 1:27 AM on August 9, 2013 [9 favorites]

OK, the tests are in, and it's just as I suspected. We're looking at stage four Bitchy Resting Face.
posted by Rykey at 2:26 AM on August 9, 2013

skullbee, you rule
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:44 AM on August 9, 2013

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