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Famous 'Uncanny Valley' Essay Translated, Published In Full

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the he-looks-amazingly-realistic-too dept.

Robotics 70

An anonymous reader writes "IEEE has published an English translation of the 1970 essay in which Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori introduced the now-famous concept of the Uncanny Valley. The original essay was in Japanese, and IEEE says this is the first publication of a translation authorized and reviewed by Mori. They also have an interview with Mori, who still thinks that robot designers should not attempt to 'cross' the Uncanny Valley."

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Refuted? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40295391)

Isn't it already established that the uncanny valley is BS?

Re:Refuted? (1)

Fireking300 (1852630) | about 2 years ago | (#40295503)

I'm not sure if you're trolling or not. But, do you understand what the Uncanny Valley is? If you did understand how is it 'BS'?

Re:Refuted? (5, Informative)

ls671 (1122017) | about 2 years ago | (#40295703)

I did know what it was myself so here is a link for the lazy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley [wikipedia.org]

Re:Refuted? (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40296343)

It doesn't mention it in the Wikipedia entry, but this effect is also why some of the newer, more "realistic" CGI movies (eg, Polar Express) seem eerie instead of cute. I'd like to think it also explains why Prince Valiant is so lame, but I'm not sure I could make the hypothesis stretch that far.

Re:Refuted? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40297197)

It also explains why trannys are so creepy, even to people that normally accept gays.

Re:Refuted? (1)

unitron (5733) | about 2 years ago | (#40310451)

If you mean the Sunday comics printed version of Prince Valiant, it's not what it used to be because they don't have the original artist and writer anymore.

Kinda like Marvell in the '60s when they brought in a new artist and all of a sudden the characters looked more Asian.

Re:Refuted? (1)

plover (150551) | about 2 years ago | (#40298519)

TFA has the author's theory that it's a part of the survival / defense mechanism that has us avoid sick or lame humans, who would threaten us with disease, or cause us to have to shoulder the burden of their injury by sharing with them, or by slowing down the tribe in case we needed to run.

A slashdotter made an interesting observation last year regarding the effect. He thought It was the reaction to the detection of a mimic. "Hi, visitor, welcome to our villag-HOLY SH!T, YOU'RE NOT A PERSON, WTF ARE YOU?!?!". But I wonder if that would engender more fear than revulsion.

The difference seems to be that we suddenly don't know what they expect of us. Seeing a baby preps us for providing for their safety and security. Later, perceiving the baby as an artificial construct makes us not understand it any longer. Notice how the uncanny valley effect is somewhat lessened when the image is already a threat, as in a violent video game? It hardly matters if the guy with the sword looks perfect if we're already afraid that he's going to behead us.

Maybe there's some self-loathing because we feel stupid for not recognizing the simulacrum earlier. "I should have known better!" That might explain why motion seems to amplify the effect. The static image says "it's OK", but later motion says, "hey, wait, you're being tricked."

It's certainly an interesting phenomenon.

Reminds me of Asimov (3, Insightful)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#40295513)

In his 1940s and 50s short stories, the science of robotics progressed from primitive metal men to humanoid form. But real humans objected that the robots acted unnaturally, and the government stepped in (per usual), and banned the production of human-looking robots.

Re:Reminds me of Asimov (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#40295941)

I guess I'll have to go back and re-read them, but I never saw the "acted unnaturally" in any of the stories. Rather, people were simply afraid of losing their jobs to robots. In I, Robot (and its sequel, both collections of the stories you refer to) there was even a robot so real that you couldn't distinguish it from a human and it went on to become President of the world. The Elijia Baily books had R. Daneel, a fully humaniform robot you couldn't tell from the real McCoy (or maybe that's the "real Sarton). That robot (later in Asimov's life) put psychohistory in Seldon's head and went on to rule the galaxy (by proxy, he was Chief of Staff to the Emperor)!

Re:Reminds me of Asimov (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 2 years ago | (#40296349)

In the Elija Baily books, there were several times where someone realized something was "off" about Daneel. Usually after the fact, they connected the dots, but I find it interesting...

Re:Reminds me of Asimov (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40296507)

I don't remember the unnaturalness argument either, rather in The Caves of Steel it was about the employment. Perhaps the Susan Calvin stories have something of the sort.

Very interesting (4, Interesting)

azalin (67640) | about 2 years ago | (#40295575)

The whole concept is very interesting and should be mandatory reading for vr/cgi/games designers. The implications while focused on robotics also hold true for computer generated humans (and creatures) in movies and video games.

Re:Very interesting (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#40295901)

The difference is that in a video game you don't want the npc you just shot to act too human. Games depicting the death struggle of fallen opponents are already disturbing.

Re:Very interesting (1)

azalin (67640) | about 2 years ago | (#40296213)

Killing is not the only npc interaction in video games. Especially rpgs or adventure type games have lots of animated scenes and dialogue. That said does anybody remember the npc deaths from "Crusader - no remorse / no regret" with violence turned on? That turned a nice isometric shooter into something disturbing.

Re:Very interesting (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about 2 years ago | (#40296595)

The first time I played Mass Effect through I actually found myself emotionally bonding with the npc's. It genuinely made certain critical game decisions harder. When I had to choose who to save on Vimire I chose Ashley because I really didn't feel like I had any connection to Kaiden. I'm not sure how that would change if the npc's were more lifelike. Per the ME example the npc's use live voice actors some so in that respect they are very lifelike but if the actual graphics became more realistic would it bother me? Good question.

Re:Very interesting (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#40296715)

Well, for you maybe, but not everyone. I find war movies like Saving Private Ryan or We Were Soldiers [wikipedia.org] to be far more disturbing, especially when the events in Soldiers were NOT fiction, and the gruesome details enacted really happened. Much of Private Ryan was real as well, especially the D-Day landing. That movie gave WWII veterans who had been there flashbacks.

Re:Very interesting (2)

gblackwo (1087063) | about 2 years ago | (#40297029)

Perhaps it is a good thing to be disturbed.

Earlier this semester, I had shown my roommate actual footage of insurgents being taken out from the air. He was a bit disturbed, but later that week when he bought Modern Warfare 3, he was more disturbed at how similar it was- and for the first time felt uneasy about pulling the trigger in a videogame.

For a different anecdote, my father and I were on the highway, and we passed by a crew tossing animal corpses into a flatbed truck. Unexpectedly, to see them lifelessly thrown as such, was a bit disturbing to me. I mentioned this, and he said he was glad- he had been worried that violent games had desensitized me and was simply glad to see a "normal" response to gore/corpses.

So, what exactly is the downside of an extremely realistic game? Is it that we could actually be traumatized? De-sensitized? Or simply that the game would be less marketable with less people wanting to expose themselves to it? Maybe the game would actually be more marketable with people lining up to play it. What if it makes people realize what war actually looks like, and feels like? Would the next generation be less willing to go to war? To kill non-digital people?

Re:Very interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40313635)

I felt exactly the same tinge when playing the AC-130 gunship levels in Modern Warfare 1. What struck me as odd is that the video game representation (gray video feed with highlighted dots representing game enemies) matched the real-life usage. The way the level was presented was very video game-y and what surprised me was how video game-y the real-life activity felt. If that's confusing, my point is that this was almost a case of life imitates art, rather than the usual (reversed) scenario.

Goes the other way too (5, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#40295789)

The uncanny valley goes the other direction too.
Too much work done on a human female by a plastic surgeon, hair stylist, body piercer, tattoo artist, or makeup artist makes her look really weird, you could even say "uncanny".

I would postulate that a overlap situation either already exists or soon will, where a silicone female can be found who is weirder looking in the artificial direction than a silicon female in the human direction. This has interesting implications for hollywood and pr0n actors where at least some fraction of human beings are better replaced with CGI equivalents.

Re:Goes the other way too (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | about 2 years ago | (#40296239)

Very good point. I was going to post something like this.

Hollywood stars, both male and female, who got too much plastic surgery would fall under the Uncanny Valley.

Re:Goes the other way too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40297293)

All trannys. The ones that fool you for a second are the worst.

Kubrik knew this. It's why he dubbed a woman's voice over the tranny's in 'Eyes Wide Shut'. Maximum creep-out factor.

Re:Goes the other way too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40297573)

I think the parent was referring to people like Paula Dean or Joan Rivers... no mention of trannys (trannies?)

Re:Goes the other way too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40297745)

He avoided the politically incorrect truth. I didn't. All trannys are examples of people who got too much (way too much, ouch ouch ouch) plastic surgery.

Re:Goes the other way too (1)

gblackwo (1087063) | about 2 years ago | (#40297941)

There are plenty of trannies that don't get surgery, that simply do hormones and grow their own tits, and their body over time deposits fat in the more feminine locations etc.

Whether or not they get their junk mutilated is not something that's going to change where they lie on the uncanny valley chart.

Re:Goes the other way too (1)

identity0 (77976) | about 2 years ago | (#40300017)

I think that's an example of confirmation bias. You don't notice the ones that can pass as women, so the only trannys you notice are the bad ones..

Re:Goes the other way too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40300091)

That would be all of them. Even Cher can be made to look human on camera.

Re:Goes the other way too (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about 2 years ago | (#40306629)

Oooh, a brave AC daring to oppose the liberal politically correct tyranny that prevents real men from speaking the truth for fear of, er, something or other. You don't have a fucking clue what you're talking about, and are a bigoted moron.

Re:Goes the other way too (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about 2 years ago | (#40306623)

All trannys. The ones that fool you for a second are the worst.

If you're that TV-phobic, I would imagine the ones who fool you up to the point they take their knickers off are the worst.

Re:Goes the other way too (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#40296885)

Too much work done on a human female by a plastic surgeon, hair stylist, body piercer, tattoo artist, or makeup artist makes her look really weird

I always found fat women who wear too much makeup to be hilarious. Bad plastic surgery is just bad plastic surgery, I've known two women who had to have their faces repaired, one from a car wreck and one from an abusive husband. One was really good looking, the other was the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. Of course, the seventy year olds who have their faces lifted do look creepy. Personally, I find any tattoos and piercings ugly and gross.

Re:Goes the other way too (1)

identity0 (77976) | about 2 years ago | (#40299957)

Are you implying that human males who do so don't?

Really curious why you left out men there.

Re:Goes the other way too (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about 2 years ago | (#40306643)

Are you implying that human males who do so don't?

Really curious why you left out men there.

It's probably something to do with his deep seated misogyny, exacerbated by the fact that he is a virgin living in his mom's basement, and has a laughably tiny cock.

At a guess.

not really "required" (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 2 years ago | (#40295803)

The name captures the idea that an almost human-looking robot will seem overly "strange" to a human being, will produce a feeling of uncanniness, and will thus fail to evoke the empathic response required for productive human-robot interaction

"Required" seems a little strong. If I'm going to talk about my day over coffee with the robot, sure. But I neither drink coffee nor talk about my day, lol. If I want the robot to go reboot server #42, I don't care how he feels or I feel about him (so very similar to the humans I work with actually). I don't care if he's super realistic but not quite right in just such a way to make it a little creepy or unsettling. Again, that description applies to most of the other human IT workers as well and doesn't produce revulsion either lol.

Earlier hominids (4, Insightful)

Empiric (675968) | about 2 years ago | (#40295829)

It would be interesting to see where earlier hominids would fall along the "uncanny valley" curve. Perhaps by VR simulation or even cloning if we found some viable DNA for that.

I'd like to see how this would play into conceptual, rather than perceptual, differentiation of "human", as, it seems most have no actual specifiable basis for this.

(Note to attentive mods: Yes, I am indeed going for the record for most-subtle troll today. The karma will be worth it, and such an experiment I actually would like to see...)

Re:Earlier hominids (1)

ignavus (213578) | about 2 years ago | (#40307737)

It would be interesting to see where earlier hominids would fall along the "uncanny valley" curve.

There you go, always taking the Cro-Magnon side. Maybe if you looked at it from the early hominids' point of view, it's the modern humans who are the uncanny ones.

Slashdot's not just for you modern hominids, you know. We primitive cavemen have feelings too.

Now get out of my valley!

I was creeped out by Final Fantasy movie (4, Interesting)

peter303 (12292) | about 2 years ago | (#40295877)

Its was both too fake and real. Polar express was like that too.

Dreamwork artists said that had to make Shrek characters more cartoonist because they were getting too close to the Valley.

Re:I was creeped out by Final Fantasy movie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40296083)

I agree with you about the Polar Express. It was very well done, but a bit creepy because it was obvious that the characters were meant to look as realistic as possible.

Re:I was creeped out by Final Fantasy movie (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | about 2 years ago | (#40296729)

Really? I wasn't creeped out by Final Fantasy except when they kiss in space. In fact, when the bad guy pulls a gun against his head, I thought "Damn, what a scene!".

Re:I was creeped out by Final Fantasy movie (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40297067)

Really? I wasn't creeped out by Final Fantasy except when they kiss in space. In fact, when the bad guy pulls a gun against his head, I thought "Damn, what a scene!".

/me notes down "Cannot discern between corpses and characters, questionable taste in character development, most likely frothing Final Fantasy fan; Diagnosis: HIGHLY HAZARDOUS; Recommendations: Safe to ignore subject's artistic, writing, or video game tastes; Make sure to post anonymously to avoid having to talk to subject; Observe subject from afar to avoid spread of infection."

Re:I was creeped out by Final Fantasy movie (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 2 years ago | (#40299323)

I was creeped out by the final fantasy movie because such a tremendous amount of resources (for the time) with such a tremendous potential (also for the time) and such a great collection of voice talent (by any measure) went into creating such an incoherent, annoying movie. It was like they were trying to be stupid on purpose.

Final Fantasy could have been the Avatar of its time, (which is not necessarily a totally good thing, but that's another topic) but was instead a jumbled, irritating mess despite the gorgeous graphics (which for the most part still hold up today).

Re:I was creeped out by Final Fantasy movie (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about 2 years ago | (#40306915)

My main reaction to the Final Fantasy film was "how clever, this cartoon is almost as good as watching real third rate actors instead of animations".

Re:I was creeped out by Final Fantasy movie (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 2 years ago | (#40309661)

Third rate? Seriously? Ming-Na, Donald Sutherland, Steve Buscemi, James Woods? What do you consider first rate? Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson?

You have a point about an animated show trying to ape live actors -- if it's not appropriate to the material, it just looks goofy. But the idea of computer animation (or any digital effect) is to create environments and situations that you couldn't easily do live, to give the writers a richer landscape in which to tell their story. This is the real place FF fell down. FF had some amazing visuals, but the story was secondary (or third or fourth) and it showed.

Re:I was creeped out by Final Fantasy movie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40299531)

I felt the same way about The Matrix. Something was just not quite right about the robot that played Neo.

Re:I was creeped out by Final Fantasy movie (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40304037)

Am I the only one who feels that way about Avatar?

Re:I was creeped out by Final Fantasy movie (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about 2 years ago | (#40307059)

If you find ten foot tall blue skinned aliens to be uncannily human you should probably cut down on the recreational drugs a bit.

Death (1)

internerdj (1319281) | about 2 years ago | (#40296131)

I've heard about the subject before, but I'd never been exposed to the original author's mention of death. I wonder if that is what it is all about? Our natural fear or aversion to death and dead bodies makes the uncanny valley happen. Given the stories of vampires, I'm not surprised the movement of a dead body evokes a steeper uncanny valley moment.

Entirely Subjective (3, Insightful)

drkstr1 (2072368) | about 2 years ago | (#40296279)

Interesting read, but entirely subjective. How does one measure "affinity"? It seems as though the original author simply plotted a graph that matches his own perceptions. I suppose one could determine the data points through a survey, but I didn't see anything such in the essay (although I did just skim the second half, so maybe I missed it). Regardless, it doesn't seem very scientific to me. Interesting read though.

Re:Entirely Subjective (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about 2 years ago | (#40307139)

Interesting read, but entirely subjective. How does one measure "affinity"? It seems as though the original author simply plotted a graph that matches his own perceptions. I suppose one could determine the data points through a survey, but I didn't see anything such in the essay (although I did just skim the second half, so maybe I missed it). Regardless, it doesn't seem very scientific to me. Interesting read though.

An essay doesn't have to be scientific to be interesting. There is no way this could ever be measured objectively anyway, any more than something like "beuaty". That doesn't mean there's no point in discussing aesthetics.

Election 2012 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40296355)

I'm not advocating for either candidate, I just remembered this article from the Atlantic and am passing it along because I think the whole idea is pretty funny: "The Uncanny Valley: What Robot Theory Tells Us About Mitt Romney." [theatlantic.com]

Re:Election 2012 (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#40299661)

I'm not advocating for either candidate, I just remembered this article from the Atlantic and am passing it along because I think the whole idea is pretty funny: "The Uncanny Valley: What Robot Theory Tells Us About Mitt Romney." [theatlantic.com]

Damnit. I friggin' knew it

Romney is a robot. It explains it all. I'm going to have to pass, however.

Maybe they can try for an improved version [wikia.com] in 2016.

Do not cross (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40296945)

Do not cross the uncanny valley, fuck it [realdoll.com]! (warning: absolutely NSFW unless you're in the pr0n industry).

I Did feel the uncanny valley, but it's gone. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40297341)

After many years of pushing the limits in games (Final Fantasy ... Skyrim) and movies (again Final Fantasy, I robot,...) and contemplating the differences between human and android (Do androids dream of electric sheep?), nothing but utter fascination remains. The aversion is gone. The chasm has become blurry to me. I am ready!

Re:I Did feel the uncanny valley, but it's gone. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40297589)

Right. The fleshlight/realdoll had nothing to do with it.

Uncanny Valley doesn't apply to prosthetics (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40298139)

Let's eliminate discussion of robots and just concentrate on prosthetics. The author argues that when someone loses an eye, they shouldn't get an artificial eye put in, rather they should look stylish with a patch. This clearly isn't the choice of the vast majority of people missing an eye as they prefer something closer to their natural appearance. Now, you can argue that an artificial eye is distracting and fits within Uncanny Valley by making others uncomfortable.

But that occurs only because the eye isn't fully operational -- it doesn't follow the focus of the other eye. If an artificial eye could provide even a semblance of sight, then the eye muscles could operate it correctly and it would be difficult to distinguish it from a real eye.

This is the situation with false teeth and cataract surgery, where they have definitely ascended the final summit.

It doesn't make any sense to stop short with a stylish choice with any other prosthetic.

Why not? (1)

oreiasecaman (2466136) | about 2 years ago | (#40301201)

They also have an interview with Mori, who still thinks that robot designers should not attempt to 'cross' the Uncanny Valley."

Why not? Worked just fine to me... people react a lot less awkwardly to me now :)

Don't know what 'uncanny valley' feels like? See.. (3, Interesting)

stiebing.ja (836551) | about 2 years ago | (#40301689)

... the video of the robot Octavia in action [youtube.com] to get a feeling of it. Developed by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) [navy.mil] it looks so much like a mixture of Alien (out of the famous movie) and the cute Nao [aldebaran-robotics.com] that it is the most scary thing I ever saw moving.

This thing is so far in the Uncanny Valley - you could also just call him "Uncle Vanney".
It's look is strange enough that my brain just can't decide wether it's cute or evil, so decides to panic and makes we want to flee immediatly - and might it be into the open flames...

(Just to be on the safe side: I for one welcome our new firefighting Octavia lords)

Re:Don't know what 'uncanny valley' feels like? Se (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about 2 years ago | (#40307205)

I really don't think you have grasped the concept of the uncanny valley quite right. Octavia looks nothing like a human being. It has a cartoon face and moves like a tank. It's about as scary as a microwave oven with bunny ears pinned on the side.

Re:Don't know what 'uncanny valley' feels like? Se (1)

stiebing.ja (836551) | about 2 years ago | (#40307327)

Agreed that it's no humanoid, but thats not always necessary to get trapped in the valley. As Octavia sends out social signals through its somewhat cartoon like face, your emotional brain is triggered. The converse signals received from the unhuman moving then sends you right into the uncannines.
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