The Uncanny Valley

Have you ever been disturbed by a style of animation?

I remember thinking there was something a bit unsettling about the characters in the Polar Express.  At the time I didn’t know it was such a universal phenomena and even had a name.  Apparently, Tom Hanks was the conductor of the creepy train headed straight into the pit of the Uncanny Valley.  [the place this omen baby lives]  A hellish slope dotted with humanoid robots, all the way down to the creepiest of zombies.

“Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori stated in 1970 that the more human a robot acted or looked, the more endearing it would be to a human being. For example, most lovable Robot Buddies look humanoid, but keep quirky and artistically mechanical affectations. However, at some point, the likeness would seem too strong, and it would just come across as a very strange human being. At this point, the acceptance drops suddenly, changing to a powerful negative reaction.”  Television Tropes and Idioms

What is the uncanny valley?

“The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of robotics and 3D computer animation, which holds that when human replicas look and act almost, but not perfectly, like actual human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. The “valley” refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of humans as a function of a robot’s human likeness.” Wikipedia


Uncanny Valley graph

Film and game makers & the uncanny valley

4 thoughts on “The Uncanny Valley

    1. Hi TT, =)
      There really is. I wonder what will happen if/when we aren’t able to distinguish animations from the real thing in movies or on TV.

  1. I’ve read a lot of science fiction in my day, where this idea is explored at length. Personally I think robots would need to look like machines and the boundary lines very clearly, and visibly defined, else the fear factor comes in.

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