A Walk in the Valley of the Uncanny

There have been two strategies employed in CGI animation more recently to avoid going the way of Final Fantasy. One is to deliberately choose an exaggerated, cartoonish look for characters in order to avoid the potential pitfalls of the Uncanny Valley by staying well to the left of it on Mori’s graph. This is precisely what Pixar did for 2004’s The Incredibles, whose characters are recognizably human but not much more realistic than a two-dimensional cartoon. The other strategy is to do exactly what Hiroshi Ishiguro did: to “jump the Valley” by working backwards from real human beings. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, for example, the character of Gollum was animated based on the captured recorded motions and voice of actor Andy Serkis. Moral of the story: it is very difficult to pull off creating a realistic animated human being from scratch – and perhaps even foolish to try.
Overall it seems clear that there is something causing the anxiety epitomized by Hiroshi Ishiguro’s daughter and the uneasiness experienced by many viewers of computer-animated human beings. Whether this is all based in an Uncanny Valley of aesthetics and movement or based in something else, it will likely have to be thoroughly explored and resolved if humanoid robots are ever required to become a part of human society. Masahiro Mori, although of course not at all skeptical of his own theory, agreed with the need for further study in order “to know what is human [and] to establish the design methodology for creating familiar devices through robotics research”.
Damn Interesting – A Walk in the Valley of the Uncanny