Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Term of the Day: Uncanny Valley

This figure is definitely in the uncanny valley. Photo from Wikipedia.

Something is in the uncanny valley if it is human enough to trigger our "that's a person" reaction, but missing enough human traits that it comes across as very creepy. From the Wikipedia entry:
The phenomenon can be explained by the notion that, if an entity is sufficiently non-humanlike, then the humanlike characteristics will tend to stand out and be noticed easily, generating empathy. On the other hand, if the entity is "almost human", then the non-human characteristics will be the ones that stand out, leading to a feeling of "strangeness" in the human viewer. In sum, a robot stuck inside the uncanny valley is no longer being judged by the standards of a robot doing a good job at pretending to be human; but is instead being judged by the standards of a human doing a terrible job at acting like a normal person.
Here's a graphical representation, again from the Wikipedia entry:

(Yes, Internal Monologue is increasingly influenced by what I'm exposed to at work. Computer games seek to avoid the uncanny valley for their characters, unless they're deliberately going there to produce a sense of unease.)

2 Comments:

Blogger Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy said...

Hi, ZD!

Great line-up of stories you've got here!

I hope the New Year is being good to you!

5:10 AM, January 16, 2008  
Anonymous Bill in Minneapolis said...

That is fasinating, Zac. I think that helps explain why paintings by Picasso, Klee, etc. are so appealling. Also, children's art.
We can empathize with human characteristics in these very nonhuman figures.

3:04 PM, January 16, 2008  

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