Thursday, December 6, 2007

Uncanny Valley

I was reading articles for my annotated bibliography, and I cam across one about androids. (Ishiguro, Hiroshi. "Interactive Humanoids and Androids as Ideal Interfaces for Humans." 2006 International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces (2006): 2-9.) I looked at some of the pictures, and my first thought: "That's creepy."

Appropriately, those pictures were in the section about the so-called "uncanny valley". The uncanny valley refers to the feeling of revulsion when you see something that's almost, but not quite, human.

The idea behind the uncanny valley is that when you look at something obviously inhuman, the slight human-like characteristics stand out, and so you empathize with it. But when it becomes sufficiently human-like, the non-human characteristics stand out, creating a feeling of revulsion.

Interestingly, I've heard people refer to the uncanny valley when talking about the movie Beowulf, which is done entirely with CGI. Personally, I think they did a really good job making the humans look human, and there are few scenes where it really sticks out.

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