Friday, July 15, 2011

Uncanny Valley

Have you heard of "The Uncanny Valley?" Even if you haven't, you probably have experienced it before. It refers to this graph:

It is a phenomenon documented first by Masahiro Mori, a professor looking at the way that people respond to robots and CGI.

Basically, if something does not appear human at all people feel pretty indifferent to it. The more human it seems the more people like interacting with the thing, up until a certain point. The uncanny valley describes that sudden big dip in the graph. There is a certain point where something seems very human, but not quite human enough to be thought of as actually human, and suddenly all your warm fuzzies die.

Your subconscious sets off alarms that something is not right, this thing might be trying to trick you into thinking it is human! You feel creeped out and uneasy. Take a look at the CUBO lady. There is a flash link where you can play with her,
Their servers seem to have problems sometimes though, so if you want you can just watch her on Youtube.

You see? At first she seems ok...but when she moves around something seems weird, and when she opens her mouth in that little smile she becomes instantly off-putting.

I have a theory that there is a second part to the curve though. Imagine this:
You are walking along when you run into your friend LeBron James. You both greet each other as fellow humans. Then a basketball flies overhead and LeBron jumps 10 feet in the air:

Suddenly you are not 100% convinced he is actually a human. Creepy.
Or say you are standing next to Yao Ming. Are you sure he is human? Can real humans actually be that giant?

I postulate that the second half of the curve has a second valley for weirdly super-human athletes.

If we all discovered that Blake Griffin is actually an alien-human hybrid which one of you guys would really be that surprised? He seems like a nice guy, but there is something really unsettling about a person who can jump over you whenever they feel like it.

Ok, ok. Marc Gasol is not really a super-human athlete, he can just grow a lot of hair, an inhuman amount of hair...


Rain Coyote said...

Um. I may have nightmares about that Cubo Lady thing. It's like the scary Polar Express movie. *shudders*

McRachie said...

I agree! The "Polar Express" movie totally gives me the creeps! Oddly enough, it is psychologically disturbing while "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is pretty pleasant.