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The Uncanny Valley Explained

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the japan's-plan-for-scaring-the-rest-of-us-to-death dept.

Robotics 172

ColdWetDog writes "Scientists now believe they've figured out what causes the uncanny valley response. They compared functional MRI scans of volunteers watching two different types of videos: those showing human-appearing androids, and those showing the humans that the robots were created to mimic. 'The results suggest that the uneasiness we feel could be caused by a "perceptual mismatch between appearance and motion."' Basically, the brain seemed to react in a strongly negative manner when the robotic motions of the android didn't match its human-like appearance."

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ANOTHER PLEASANT VALLEY SUNDAY !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890448)

Goota love them sundaes !! Makes you big and fat like our Cmdr. Taco !!

Sad news ... Amy Winehouse, dead at 27 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890598)

I just heard some sad news on talk radio - singer Amy Winehouse was found dead in her home this morning. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss her - even if you didn't enjoy her work, there's no denying her contributions to popular culture. Truly an English icon.

Re: Amy Winehouse, crack whore, finally dead at 27 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890682)

Good riddance! This was one creature not fit for this island.

Re: Amy Winehouse, crack whore, finally dead at 27 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36891084)

Too good for ya'll huh.

Re: Amy Winehouse, crack whore, finally dead at 27 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36891698)

Makes a good role anit-model: This is you on drugs (pan to recently-dug grave with winehouse epitaph reading: Can't do REHAB so I'll just DIE instead). Stupid bitch.

SO (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890452)

They spent money to scientifically determine 'it looks weird'.

Still don't care. Just wake me up when they can give a good BJ.

Re:SO (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890484)

They're working on it. [blameitonthevoices.com]

Re:SO (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890808)

For those who want to know what that really was...there is an artist who has been working with scientists to synthesize or resurrect the sounds made by long-extinct human ancestors, such as "Lucy." She's also working on recreating the sounds of the woolly mammoth. Look it up on NPR's web site.

Re:SO (2)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890994)

They spent money to scientifically determine 'it looks weird'.

Actually, no. If it "looked weird", that wouldn't be a problem. The problem occurs when it looks normal, but moves weird.

Re:SO (1)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892380)

Doesn't really explain the effect some people get with still images though, does it?

=Smidge=

Re:SO (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891078)

I know. Some friends and I were watching some CGI whatsis a few years ago, and came to the exact same conclusion for the cost of some pizza and Heinekens.

Re:SO (1)

semi-extrinsic (1997002) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891590)

But the real question is: would you have come up with a less lame excuse for building a realistic robot in your own image (using the university's money and labs) ?

Re:SO (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891920)

But the real question is: would you have come up with a less lame excuse for building a realistic robot in your own image (using the university's money and labs) ?

I'm sure there are better usage of college funds

http://clas.asu.edu/node/10122 [asu.edu]

Sexbot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890478)

Really, all I want from a robot is for it to look like an attractive human female of my choosing that way I can have my own sexbot so that my girl can't/won't get mad at me for having sex without her. Bonus if she wants to join in!

Re:Sexbot? (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891246)

but without fixing the uncanny valley problem you won't WANT to have sex with the sexbot. I think that's an excellent example of how we think a sexbot is cute in movies or cartoons, but in reality it's a machine that's got to convince me to stick my wiinis into it. Even Animals have a leg up (not on the furniture) on feeling Alive versus the best robots.. that's why there's whole internet sites devoted to cat pictures. (not that I would know anything about that.. don't judge me)

Re:Sexbot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36891464)

"it causes a response of revulsion among human observers."

I don't know, I think that definition of the effects of the uncanny valley describe most normal people's reaction to a lot of Internet porn out there today. If people are going to whack off to girls with tentacles, I think they will be just fine with mostly realistic robots...

The 80's (2)

unreadepitaph (1537383) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890480)

Must have been a very uneasy time for society.

Re:The 80's (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890506)

I think you mean the 70's. It was a time of post-acid induced weirdness.

Re:The 80's (1)

unreadepitaph (1537383) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890542)

Replicate the experiment with the participants using illicit drugs?

Re:The 80's (1)

JordanL (886154) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891534)

It's kind of scary to realize that the "middle class" of today was largely either heavy drug users in their youth, or born to heavy drug users. It's no wonder the 20-somethings of the world think the world is fucked up... it kind of literally was.

Re:The 80's (1)

dakameleon (1126377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892008)

Now there's an explanation for today's politics I can actually understand. What happens 15 years down the track when the middle/power group is the children of cocaine users?

Re:The 80's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36892526)

Or worse - they were born to squares!

Awesome! (3, Funny)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890482)

Finally, we see a front page reference to a graph that includes stuffed animals and zombies!

Re:Awesome! (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890966)

Stuffed Animal Zombies ... I think I saw that in a Muse music video [youtube.com]

Same thing with politicians (5, Funny)

joelsanda (619660) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890494)

From the Wikipedia [wikimedia.org] article:

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.

That describes my reaction to watching politicians.

Re:Same thing with politicians (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890754)

I think you are very close.

Our brains have a lot of facilities to try to determine the status and motives of other people by analyzing fine grained information of movement, posture, voice tone/cadence, facial expressions, and eye motion. That doesn't kick in when looking at non humans. Only other people and especially strangers. With good enough animation it kicks in and everything is suddenly wrong. Same deal with a politician who isn't a professional actor (Like Reagan), you can tell he's not being real and trying to blow smoke up your butt. And that makes you edgy.

Doubt it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36891042)

At least here in the US, we keep voting in the same jokers, over and over again.

I'd argue that with politicians, your average Joe has developed the canny valley - with them, inhuman behavior garners trust, while fear and distrust stems from actual human mannerisms.

Someone give me a research grant. :(

Re:Doubt it. (1)

WidgetGuy (1233314) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891490)

Someone give me a research grant. :(

I would if I could. Explains eight years of Bush.

Re:Same thing with politicians (2)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891096)

I still think it comes down to disease. For thousands of years even what we could consider today minor diseases killed your ass VERY dead and if you get to close its too late. The jerky movements of bots remind me of the coughing shakes one gets when you've got a bad bug, so I frankly wouldn't be surprised if the most primitive part of our brains go "Looks wrong, might be sick, STAY AWAY!" because frankly that would be a trait most likely to be passed down because those that got too close? Well they didn't get to pass on their genes thanks to getting sick and dying.

Re:Same thing with politicians (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891098)

you can tell he's not being real and trying to blow smoke up your butt. And that makes you edgy.

Mind you, even a non-politician trying to blow smoke up my butt would produce the same edgy response.

Re:Same thing with politicians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36892248)

Mind you, even a non-politician trying to blow smoke up my butt would produce the same edgy response.

Even a professional actor trying to blow smoke up my butt would make me edgy, especially if it was Reagan semi/un-dead corpse.

I'm equal opportunity (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890496)

I don't care how weird they move; as long as she's got some big ol' funbags, I'll explore her uncanny valley any day!

Illness (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890532)

My immediate thoughts are that a humanoid who is moving in a consistently odd fashion may be ill, disabled, deformed, injured or under the effects of substance. It's probably not a surprise that people react negatively, especially when they look "almost" human.

Re:Illness (3, Interesting)

orngjce223 (1505655) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890570)

I fall somewhere on the autism spectrum (officially diagnosed, before someone jumps me for that).

I don't experience the Uncanny Valley effect, and this is the probable evolutionary explanation for it that I've come up with. If it doesn't "look right", it might be a corpse instead of a dead human, or carrying a disease, both of which are possibilities that would explain why the response to Uncanny Valley is a flinch instead of curiosity.

On the other hand, I've been told many times that I myself trigger the Uncanny Valley effect, by virtue of my behavior...

Re:Illness (2)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890708)

Our brains are normally good at picking up a lot of subtle nonverbal queues. Austic people tend to miss them more on a veried level.
While the theory of keeping us away from corpses is a good one. However we don't get the same effect with animal (of different spieces) where many of those dangers are still there.

I think it is the lack of non-verbal communication that makes people uncomfortable. It looks like a human, however I cannot judge it's state of mind. Thus you are afraid of it as it's actions are not telegraphed. We actually pick up a lot of queues and can tell if someone is going to shake your hand or punch you in the gut. With many human looking robots we don't see the queues and are afraid of the next action.

Re:Illness (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891262)

nonverbal cues

Fix'd.

Re:Illness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36891666)

And you missed VARIED? Turn over your grammer nazi card. you female hygiene product.

Re:Illness (2)

joshuac (53492) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890960)

Total speculation, but during a time multiple rather-similar hominids were walking around I wonder if it would have served an anti-mating purpose for situations where the genetic difference may have been large enough to increase odds of hybrid (i.e. sterile) offspring.

Re:Illness (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891830)

It might be, but I think that explanation is somewhat superfluous. We know that missmatch of expectation and sensaes gives problems (motion sickness is a prime example), so why go any further to explain this? The brain tries to model the other human, and keeps failing, as it doesn't quite move in the right way.

So, now we have two hypothesis (evolutionary versus expectation mismatch). I don't see data today that can speak for one or the other, and we already know that one is functional (though not in that area, and not with that effect). Unless I am missing something (I might be, please inform me), or until we get new data, I would say that the evolutionary explanation is interesting, but not necessary right now.

Old News (4, Interesting)

Pence128 (1389345) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890536)

We knew this already. They're realistic enough to fool our brains into thinking human, but different enough that the "human" has something seriously wrong with it. That something might be contagious, so you get the "stay the hell away" signal. Imagine a zombie horde where all the zombies are replaced by normal people, but they still act like zombies. Still has the squick factor.

Re:Old News (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891016)

We knew this already.

No. We hypothesized this already. We still don't know it, but we now have better reason for believing it than "it sounds right". Silly scientists are more interested in truth than truthiness.

Re:Old News (2)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891834)

We knew this already.

No. We hypothesized this already. We still don't know it, but we now have better reason for believing it than "it sounds right". Silly scientists are more interested in truth than truthiness.

True. However TFA was atrocious. Uncanny Valley theory has long suggested that the problem is the mismatch between static appearance and ways of moving. What the article said was that the research "discovered" this, rather than "confirmed", which is what the research really did.

To simple (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891756)

If this was true then people behaving oddly deliberately would be shunned, not payed huge sums of money to entertain us.

Why does a human statue not frighten us? Mime's? Oh okay, I give you that one. People doing the robot? For that matter I am not uneasy if someone around me is sick and some (mothers) go straight into care mode.

Might it be something far simpler? The Simpsons only trigger my "god this animation quality is crap" mode when the episode is bad. If the story is good, I don't care. R2-D2 never triggered any "this ain't real" reaction with me UNTIL he used those jets in the new movies. How come the desk-lights from Pixar are perfectly understood by people but Final Fantasy Spirits Within failed? The uncanny valley or simply that Pixar is better at telling a story? In understand the fears and hopes and dreams of the desktop lights... the chars from FF? Not so much. It would be very interesting to see what would happen if Pixar created a story with the animators from FF.

If it was a merely animal reaction then how does it explain barn-yard cats still happily chasing a toy despite them being intimately familiar with the real behavior of prey?

I think the uncanny valley reaction is triggered when our brain has already decided this is boring and then start to notice details that otherwise it wouldn't care about. The uneasy feeling ain't just "something is wrong" but also "I paid for this?".

The simple animalistic explanation for me fails to address all the times we have no issue whatsoever with things that are slightly off. After all, every time a woman puts on make-up should upset us, wears a bra (oh okay, that does upset me). All that causes "wrongness" in the picture but we don't care.

The example given by the parent of a herd of zombies has been proven by "Thriller" to be untrue. Same with the series Cats. People behaving as they shouldn't be and us paying to good money for it because we like it.

Re:To simple (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891896)

The simple animalistic explanation for me fails to address all the times we have no issue whatsoever with things that are slightly off. After all, every time a woman puts on make-up should upset us, wears a bra (oh okay, that does upset me). All that causes "wrongness" in the picture but we don't care.

That would only be true if you'd never seen a woman wearing a bra and make-up before. As we've all grown up with that, we consider it normal. By contrast, as a kid I found Japanese geishas on TV very creepy. They didn't walk right and their faces were painted and held rigid in a way that made it look like a mask

Wait a second... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890540)

So they explained that the uncanny valley is caused when something looks/moves *almost* human but isn't human it creeps people out?

Wasn't that the original definition of the valley anyhow? Was this just not experimented on before? Also how does this work with those *almost human* things that are in still pictures? Sometimes those things are freaky as hell.

Have they MRIed people using Lion? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890572)

This also explains why users vomit when using the new iCal and Address Book UIs in Lion. They try to look real, but it's a massive fail, plus it's an ugly real. When magical search bars hover on top of books that float inside my monitor, I call that the uncanny valley of UX.

The worst thing about predicting the future (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890580)

is when that future don't come as expected. We see a pattern, figure how it could continue, and if it don't, worries us, or at least call our attention. If that is what explains the uncanny valley, makes some sense. But what about things that surprises or marvels us? What about, i.e. moonwalking? Some extra factor must be taken into account.

Re:The worst thing about predicting the future (1)

sFurbo (1361249) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891842)

Moonwalking and other marvels are on the other side of the uncanny valley: They keep breaking the rules. With your explanation of the uncanny valley, the effect would be greatest for something that seemed to follow the rules, and then broke them sometimes, then followed them for long enough for us to start expecting it to follow them, then broke them, etc.

Asperger's syndrome can cause the uncanny valley (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890606)

As an Aspie who has dedicated a large proportion of my adult life trying to be accepted as "normal" by people, I can sympathise with the robots.

When somebody smiles broadly at me, I have to "manually" trigger my (pretty natural-looking) smile, but there is a small delay before my returning smile kicks in. In that fraction of a second, the person smiling at me subconciously realises that something is not quite right, and their smile fades slightly.

So I'll forever be associated with the notion that I am odd, weird, strange, whatever, because no matter how hard I try (and I'm a pretty good actor), I will never come close to having natural charisma. It's not all bad news though - I've built up a group of friends over the years who appreciate me despite my eccentricities, and I have got enough "game" to go out and have a reasonable chance of finding a new girlfriend on any given night. But it wasn't easy to get to that stage, and required a lot of introspection and acting skill.

One way to escape the uncanny valley is to spend a while in a completely different culture, where people expect you to be different and strange, and do not read negative interpretations into tiny social cues. Asia is good.

Re:Asperger's syndrome can cause the uncanny valle (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890794)

Fellow Aspie here. Here's what childhood sounds like to somebody unknowingly living in the uncanny valley (or at least my childhood):

"You're such a freak!"
"Nobody likes you."
"I bet you don't have any friends."
"Ew, get away from me."

Re:Asperger's syndrome can cause the uncanny valle (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890930)

Your whining sure seems realistic enough!

Re:Asperger's syndrome can cause the uncanny valle (1)

joelsanda (619660) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891528)

Fellow Aspie here. Here's what childhood sounds like to somebody unknowingly living in the uncanny valley (or at least my childhood):

"You're such a freak!" "Nobody likes you." "I bet you don't have any friends." "Ew, get away from me."

IIRC correctly I heard those exact things when a First Edition D&D Dungeon Master's Guide fell out of my locker in high school. I spent nearly all of U.S. History, Political Science and English classes designing dungeons for my friend's bemusement. We had desks that had a shelf under them. I could balance the DMG on that and my knees to reference the tables needed when building encounters.

Re:Asperger's syndrome can cause the uncanny valle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890906)

When anyone claims to be an aspie, my smile fades and then comes back stronger than ever.

I'm never laughing with them...

Re:Asperger's syndrome can cause the uncanny valle (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890948)

Your extreme lack of empathy suggests that you are perhaps borderline psychopathic?

Re:Asperger's syndrome can cause the uncanny valle (3, Insightful)

crossmr (957846) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891014)

No, it suggests he realizes that Asperger's syndrome is the probably one of the most self-diagnosed mental illnesses out there, and 9 times out of 10 it's just some neckbeard trying to justify their anti-social behaviour.
It ranks up there with "bisexual" teenage girls.

Re:Asperger's syndrome can cause the uncanny valle (1)

Calydor (739835) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891326)

As someone who was diagnosed with Asperger several years before it became a catch-all for anyone 'not normal but not sure what to call it' it is very, very frustrating to see what has happened.

I have made the conscious decision that unless I'm asked directly WHAT my problem is, I'm not going to say anything. People don't hear the five years in and out of the psychiatric ward trying to get diagnosed, they just hear something it seems a large portion of the population is 'infected' with.

It sucks. It really does.

Re:Asperger's syndrome can cause the uncanny valle (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891482)

A few years back I was briefly acquainted with a man with Asperger's who was in a group I also participated with, and one game we played as a group very much showed his condition. This game required someone with a topic to make a statement about that topic, and for the other person playing (the rest were observers) to ask questions on the topic that were either seeking more specific knowledge on the topic or else were deflections to similar but related topics. The catch was that the asker had to do more than say, "Tell me more on X" or "That X reminds me of Y". The gentleman with Asperger's simply couldn't ask questions that kept the topic going.

I suppose the game was a sort of philosophy version of "Whose Line is it Anyway?" where they have to ask back and forth questions, but without the specific intentional humor.

Re:Asperger's syndrome can cause the uncanny valle (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36891052)

My solution is dyeing my hair bright turquoise. I'm also in the Aspie-and-good-actor category, and especially when I'm in full social mode I can pass for neurotypical even to psychologists, but I've found that maintaining an appearance that's unconventional without being unattractive goes a long way. I come off as incredibly charming for someone who looks so eccentric, instead of as a little odd for someone who looks so normal.

Re:Asperger's syndrome can cause the uncanny valle (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891928)

My solution is dyeing my hair bright turquoise. I'm also in the Aspie-and-good-actor category, and especially when I'm in full social mode I can pass for neurotypical even to psychologists, but I've found that maintaining an appearance that's unconventional without being unattractive goes a long way. I come off as incredibly charming for someone who looks so eccentric, instead of as a little odd for someone who looks so normal.

Hacking the Uncanny Valley effect for Fun and Profit!

Re:Asperger's syndrome can cause the uncanny valle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36892468)

Damn straight! My aggro-looking goatee has people pleasantly surprised, and as a bonus I rarely get lip from neds (a fat face is natural target for the street urchins of scotland, but not if you look like you bite the necks off beer bottles for fun)

Re:Asperger's syndrome can cause the uncanny valle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36891204)

Smile first at everyone. The best defense is a good offense.

Re:Asperger's syndrome can cause the uncanny valle (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891422)

Become a television presenter, gameshow host, or some other kind of pro-active, always-taking-the-initiative kind of job. Hell, if you don't want to go into media, Sales or Marketing could also work, as one has to take the initiative all of the time. If you manage to remember names well then that would be an advantage in sales, and if you normally have some difficulty with subtle sarcasm, being able to discard or gloss over the comment made by someone else in your duties would probably actually be a bonus in marketing to large groups. It'd be like being able to ignore the heckler or peanut gallery in an auditorium to continue one's presentation or pitch.

Note: There is mild, mild sarcasm in the comment above, but the bulk of it is intended to be truthful.

Re:Asperger's syndrome can cause the uncanny valle (1)

Lando (9348) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891514)

While acting can help overcome typical responses, I don't think that sales would be much of a position for me. I'm never sure what people around me are really feeling/thinking. What a lot of people have inborn, is a very learned skill for me. On the other hand, it's pretty easy to pick up people being untruthful around me whereas normal folks seem to fall hook line and sinker, not sure why that is, but to me the deception seems obvious.

I can work a cocktail party if I'm trying to get something done, but take away a goal and I really find it hard to deal with trivial chit-chat. I'm pretty sure that's from aspergers, but I could be wrong.

Re:Asperger's syndrome can cause the uncanny valle (1)

joelsanda (619660) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891502)

You know, if Aspberger's syndrome had been defined when Erving Goffman [wikipedia.org] was writing I think our understanding of the interaction you describe would be very different. I did my Master's Thesis on people with multiple disabilities that had at least one disability 'negatively' impacting 'normal' face-to-face interaction. It was informed heavily by symbolic interactionism [wikipedia.org] .

What I saw was that any disability could be 'overcome' in a face-to-face interaction in a public setting (a public bus, buying something at the store, ordering food in a restaurant, and so on) as long as the person with the disability could have that split-second response to verbal and non-verbal queues. For example, a paraplegic who could verbally communicate such that you wouldn't know he had a disability by just listening to him had much smoother interactions than someone who had cerebral palsy and had a more halted manner of speech.

When you mentioned that short delay before returning a smile it brought back quite a few memories of my time spent with folks who had physical disabilities that prevented them from having that split-second response to a question. It's amazing how little can disrupt social interactions - using the word 'fuck' in the wrong setting can be just as disruptive as someone who stutters.

Goffman's book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life [wikipedia.org] is a very accessible book on this topic and considered a classic of American sociology and a groundbreaking work in the symbolic interactionism tradition.

Re:Asperger's syndrome can cause the uncanny valle (1)

PatrickThomson (712694) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892444)

Hey, nice to see someone open about ASD who isn't a whiny internet shutin - Those guys have negatively stereotyped us to the point where I never talk about it any more. You raise an important point, which is that we are essentially learning how to win friends and influence people, not subconsciously as part of our character, but as a learned discipline. It scares me sometimes. Is this what sociopaths do also? I learn to smile and laugh with someone as they talk because I want to express the inner feelings that normal people can do with laughing and smiling - it doesn't matter if the impression I'm trying to force is an accurate picture of my own mental state, but it's still manipulation. Is this something we're worthy and responsible enough to wield?

This is pretty simple really... (4, Insightful)

seifried (12921) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890616)

Brain is hard wired to do a lot of things, some of which are: recognize other humans, read their body language and assess their mood/threat level. Your brain does this in fractions of a second. It's why you flinch if someone raises a hand while moving towards you suddenly.

I suspect the brain's thought process goes something like this when it encounters something that has a semi-human but obviously not real human appearance: "oh something that looks a bit like a human but obviously isn't, ok let's figure out if it's a threat (is it showing teeth? is it bigger than me? etc.)".

But when we enter uncanny valley territory I suspect the thought process goes like this "Oh wow that looks like another human, I wonder what they're intention is... HOLY S*IT BALLS IT'S NOT A HUMAN! Ok something obviously not human is trying very hard to look human. Sure there's probably a lot of innocent explanations but I can't think of one right away so I'm going to go with insanely dangerous predator trying to mask itself, Time to alert the tribe, kill it with pointy sticks and burn the corpse with fire.

Re:This is pretty simple really... (1)

dudpixel (1429789) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890900)

I think you're on the money.

The reaction is as if we have been tricked. The thing wants us to believe it is human, but we know it isn't.

Suddenly, we become suspicious, and we "freak out" because our brain is telling us that the thing is not what it looks like - ie. that what our eyes are seeing is different to what our brain is telling us.

I imagine there are a whole range of emotions triggered in quick succession, which is enough to cause panic in anyone.

The android has tried to con us, and like you said, we start getting very suspicious and extremely skeptical about it.

Maybe one step further (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891798)

The reaction is as if we have been tricked AND didn't want to be tricked.

This explains the reaction between a cross-dressing male in a comedy situation and when we think we finally for the first time in our live gotten close to scoring!

Like I said above, for me the uncanny reaction only occurs in entertainment when I am bored. Chewbacca never triggered it, Jar Jar did. Old Darth Vader good, new Darth Vader bad. Most of the acting in the new Star Wars movies triggered the "this ain't real" reaction but we do not link it to the uncanny valley because the actors are real but the reaction is much the same for me.

Is the uncanny valley not just the same as we have with an air-stewardess smile? A cosmetic surgery freaks face? They are human (barely) but still trigger "this is wrong". Might all of this be nothing more then "this is bad acting" and not acting as in mimicing human behavior but acting as in successfully entertaining/engaging us? Why can everyone understand every emotion by a pair of desktop lights? Because the story tellers do a superb job of telling a story, engaging us. Meanwhile human actors can totally fail to convince us that they are even real let alone experiencing any emotions.

We accept good actors, we reject bad ones.

I would like to see this experiment, using the Spirits Within animation team with a story by Pixar. Or one of those lifelike robots used to express something interesting as a good actor would but with the silted animation. Bring in the entertainment and see if the reaction is the same. I don't think it is.

Re:This is pretty simple really... (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890914)

kill it with pointy sticks and burn the corpse with fire.

hey, get out of my head, seifried.

Re:This is pretty simple really... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890988)

Obviously we evolved it from our centuries-long war with body snatching aliens back in prehistoric times. Take your pick: time-traveling terminators, Cylons, ...

Re:This is pretty simple really... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36892278)

What it is, is an instinctual reponse to recognising someone might be dead or wounded.

Motion capture? (1)

MasaMuneCyrus (779918) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890638)

....So, correct me if I'm wrong, but this seems to support the notion that we could rid ourselves of the uncanny valley if we only budgeted more for, and employed better and more sophisticated motion capture software in our 3d animations?

Re:Motion capture? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890724)

We could also try letting robotic synth-nannies raise our human children.

Soon enough, they would learn to associate unnatural robotic movements with tenderness and nourishment. Or starve. Either way, the effect would eventually be suppressed.

Re:Motion capture? (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890892)

Essentially, yes. The Uncanny effect is in very large part simply caused by sloppy/low-budget implementation of animation or rendering, it is not some mystical valley where you drop into if things get more realistic. A lot of the ugliness in facial motion capture for example is simply caused by inadequate capture. Unlike the body, where you have only a few limited joints to worry about, the face is full of muscle and skin movement and humans are very good at recognizing that. Thus putting a few markers on somebodies face and then slapping the data on a 3D model will lead to uncanny results, as you end up with tiny mismatches in the data (which you could fix manually by hand if you had the budget). That's why modern facial motion capture doesn't use markers, it captures lots of photographs from multiple angles with some other trickery, thus you get far more detail then you could have ever hoped for with marker based approaches and the results in turn look perfectly photo realistic.

Re:Motion capture? (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891958)

....So, correct me if I'm wrong, but this seems to support the notion that we could rid ourselves of the uncanny valley if we only budgeted more for, and employed better and more sophisticated motion capture software in our 3d animations?

That's looking at it the wrong way round. The real consequence is that we should simply revert to more "cartoony" characters in our animations. We run mocap at its limits, and at the moment the level of life-like detail on our models is too high relative to motion.

Have you ever played Façade [interactivestory.net] ? The 3D models were pretty simplistic, but the simple combination of eye, eyebrow and mouth movements was more expressive than modern texture-mapped, million-photo mocap faces.

HAL.

Doesn't explain... (2)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890720)

The feeling of being creeped-out by a NON-moving humanoid.

Re:Doesn't explain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890878)

Dressed as a clown!

Re:Doesn't explain... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890926)

Humans are normally always moving, it does explain the reaction to an abnormally frozen figure.

Re:Doesn't explain... (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891036)

The feeling of being creeped-out by a NON-moving humanoid.

Actually, it does. A non-moving humanoid definitely violates our notions of what kind of motion we expect from a human.

Re:Doesn't explain... (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891210)

I think the GP is more referring to still images. I can look at a photo of a person without feeling at all creeped out, but show me the "White Chicks" movie poster, and I want to get the hell out of there. Although that might just be humanity's instinctive aversion to the Wayans brothers.

Re:Doesn't explain... (1)

TBBle (72184) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891060)

It might explain it, if your expectation is that a human in that situation would be moving. (Breathing, blinking, twitching occasionally)

Note for example the "corpse" dot on the graph in the article.

Me throw dung (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890728)

at they who are not of my tribe

Re:Me throw dung (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890874)

Yes Congressman, we know.

Instinctive Response? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890762)

You know in nature there are plenty of cases where predators (and prey) act like things they are not in both appearance and behavior. When the actee detects unusual activity, it will react in a negative manner toward the actor.

Perhaps this sort of instinctive reaction is holding over into this case, where the slight difference trigger a subconscious negative reaction that harkens back to this common situation of nature. The thing to take away from all this is that its likely something that will be very difficult to work around, and will probably be impossible to integrate lifelike androids into our society. That's just my guess though, take it with a grain of salt.

Re:Instinctive Response? (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891050)

Not impossible, it just requires getting to the other side of the valley. This just shows that, for these purposes, a 90% solution isn't acceptable.

In other news ... (0)

oheso (898435) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890824)

... scientists using MRI scans determined that fire is hot, people generally prefer the company of people who smile a lot, and the check isn't really in the mail.

Lovecraft AND Metallica? (2)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890858)

It's not everyday that both authors are cited in a neuroscience paper.

In a predictive coding account of action perception, the android is not predictable--an agent with
that appearance (human) would typically not move mechanically. When the nervous system is presented with ‘the thing that should not be’ [Lovecraft, 1984 (1936); Hetfield et al., 1986], a propagation of prediction error may occur in the APS. While we cannot state a conclusive or causal link between prediction error and the uncanny valley based on the present data, we suggest this framework may contribute to an explanation for the uncanny valley.

Lovecraft, H.P. (1984 (1936)). The Shadow Over Innsmouth. In: Joshi, S.T., editor. The Dunwich Horror and Others. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House.
Hetfield, J., Ulrich, L. Hammett, K. (1986). The Thing That Should Not Be. Master of Puppets, Electra Records. 12 inch Vinyl.

Anyway, the full article is freely accessible [sayginlab.org]

Mimes (3, Interesting)

Required Snark (1702878) | more than 3 years ago | (#36890864)

This is why people hate them.

Re:Mimes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36892014)

Yes, people hate them. They spawn clowns too.
And despite their claims, they are not compliant.

B81tch (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36890998)

don't want to feel need tO join the

"Normal" people can be uncanny, too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36891012)

I went hiking this weekend with my wife and (2 year old) kid, and as we went along, we came across a completely normal-looking woman who had her eyes open, was standing to the side of the path, a semi-smile on her face staring out at the scenery. However, she didn't move, didn't acknowledge us in the slightest as we approached. My thought (and later, I found out, my wife's, too) was that she was doing a walking meditation or some such and was just lost in her own world.

Our kid, on the other hand, did not know what to do with it. He got up to about 4 feet shy of the woman's place on the path, and would not follow us past her. He just kept staring, unwilling to move forward. I picked him up and carried him past her, and as soon as she was out of site, he relaxed and went along his way. I asked him if that was a little uncanny, and he responded, "widdo uhcangy".

Re:"Normal" people can be uncanny, too. (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891022)

Stupid Lion update killed my /. cookie. Posting as non-anon.

I went hiking this weekend with my wife and (2 year old) kid, and as we went along, we came across a completely normal-looking woman who had her eyes open, was standing to the side of the path, a semi-smile on her face staring out at the scenery. However, she didn't move, didn't acknowledge us in the slightest as we approached. My thought (and later, I found out, my wife's, too) was that she was doing a walking meditation or some such and was just lost in her own world.

Our kid, on the other hand, did not know what to do with it. He got up to about 4 feet shy of the woman's place on the path, and would not follow us past her. He just kept staring, unwilling to move forward. I picked him up and carried him past her, and as soon as she was out of site, he relaxed and went along his way. I asked him if that was a little uncanny, and he responded, "widdo uhcangy".

Diaz and Perceived Beauty (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891100)

It's because they can't yet simulate the stretchiness and flexibilty of facial muscles. Cameron Diaz knows how to invoke the "little girl" look and mannerisms which appeal to all, but she's not all that "beautiful", compared to others.

Sad news ... Amy Winehouse, dead at 27 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36891240)

I just heard some sad news on talk radio - singer Amy Winehouse was found dead in her home this morning. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss her - even if you didn't enjoy her work, there's no denying her contributions to popular culture. Truly an English icon.

Definition of "uncanny" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36891392)

Thanks for defining "uncanny"... again.

DERRR!!!!!!!! (1)

scurvyj (1158787) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891716)

I don't think this could have been a more OBVIOUS outcome if they'd tried.

Again -

D'ERRRRR

Already known? (1)

RenHoek (101570) | more than 3 years ago | (#36891826)

Wasn't it an evolutionary mechanism, where the non-human characteristics on something resembling a human triggers the idea in people that the thing in questions is a sick human and as such should be avoided?

Would make perfect sense why the brain would react to the uncanny valley in that case. After all, avoiding sickness makes you survive longer.

Zombies (1)

severn2j (209810) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892066)

This may also explain why zombies can tell the difference between another zombie and a human acting like a zombie. Perhaps zombies have their own uncanny valley..,?

Easier explanation (1)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892290)

There is nothing to explain here. There is no uncanny valley. The simple fact that robotics experts don't like to emphasize is that even the best machines available today completely suck at emulating humans. They can't walk like humans, don't have the facial expressions of humans, and in particular don't behave even remotely like humans. They also can't understand what you say in an everyday conversation and can't talk like humans. People find them creepy or amusing in the same way as they find bad animations in video games creepy or amusing. People also find real-looking plastic fruits creepy. Heck, I personally also find Soya "steaks" rather creepy (not to speak of the horrible taste...).

Car analogy: People would also find a car with fake wheels that reminds of an existing Ford model but is made of strange glass-like material, has fake wheels, and hovers slightly above the ground a bit creepy until they get used to it.

Re:Easier explanation (1)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | more than 3 years ago | (#36892300)

I did mention it has fake wheels, did I?

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