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in a web of glass, pinned to the edges of vision

Thoughts from the Depths...

I'd forgotten how often we saw Magritte

mucha mosaic

Thoughts from the Depths...

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...of the Uncanny Valley.

So dicking around on Second Life last night, I noticed a person who'd obviously spent a lot of money on fitting out their avatar- and obviously had a very firm picture in their mind of what they wanted their avatar to look like- and who was, frankly, so hideous I couldn't bear leaving the camera on his avatar as it jerked around dancing.

I mean, dude was seriously creepy.

Stepping back and thinking about it as 'this guy made a conscious effort to look this way, and not because he wanted to make my skin crawl' led me to a conclusion:
the Uncanny Valley may well be in different places for each of us. I might find animatronic Lincoln, in the Hall of Presidents at Disneyland, creepy- but you may not.
  • OMG, I need an animatronic lincoln avatar!
    • ...that'd be kind of awesome.

      I'm still surprise by How Far Away this other guy's Uncanny Valley must be from mine, though. Dude obviously had spent thousands of lindens on the av, and yet-- eugh.
    • Yes, you so totally do!
    • thinking further on animatronic lincoln avatar?
      I'm thinking made of sculpty prims, textured in a very woodlike manner, w/ a tiny black shape-and-skin for the avatar to wear.
      As far as movement, think ventriloquist's dummy.

      Perhaps some clockworky noises if you're cammed in real close.

      Edited at 2009-05-19 09:08 am (UTC)
  • I'm actually giving serious thought to doing my dissertation on, among some related things, the Uncanny Valley (I'm looking at ancient aesthetics--someone shoot me), and my sense has been, as a classicist looking at what the Greeks say about representations of humanity, that there are a number of factors that play into exactly where, how deep, and most importantly how wide a culture's collective Uncanny Valley is. I don't find it at all unlikely that the same is true for an individual.

    Now I want to see this creep-making dude. Does a still capture it, or is it partially a function of the movement of the avatar?
    • Really, the uncanny valley is fascinating. There does seem to be a fair bit to recommend the concept as having a trackable existence- I just wish there was an explanation of how it worked. Thinking about it from the perspective of ancient Hellenic ideals is a very interesting thought to me, too: I obviously hadn't!

      I wish I'd thought to take a still- I didn't. Partially it was the movement in the dances he was using, but the ENORMOUS I'M-BEING-STRANGLED-OH-GOD-HELP of his eyes while jerking around in the dances decidedly contributed to the squick factor.
      • I think movement plays really really strongly into the Uncanny Valley. Something that's still just doesn't seem to trigger the squick as much as something that moves, particularly if it moves in jerky ways that are not human jerkiness.

        What I love about the Uncanny Valley particularly is that most people react in predictable ways to stuff that falls inside the Uncanny Valley and yet, if you ask them, they have no idea why. All they know is that they feel profoundly squicked.
    • Something very obvious that I had to have pointed out to me is that the uncanny valley is related to how we distinguish between people and dead people. The resemblance is very close, but the distinction is very important.


      • Not only dead people, but physically or mentally ill as well - there are obvious evolutionary advantages to being able to recognise both of these conditions.
        • Thanks for elucidating the evolutionary motives here: I was honestly going '...but why is this beneficial?'.

          Now I have a theory-set to work from.
      • People and dead people- or people and desperately-ill people, as sinick clarifies.
        This is a valid point- and a solid one. I'd wondered why the Uncanny Valley ever since I heard of it. Evolutionarily, it makes sense for humans to react to things that look human but behave inhumanly with a strong, firm 'AAAA DO NOT WANT!'.
    • I had an Uncanny Vallet prof once. It was entirely a function of body language. I'm sure he'd look normal in a still photo, but his body language was so alarming on an instinctive level, we couldn't watch him. (He was a terrible teacher too).
      • ...huh. interesting! That is really odd.
        For me, movement is key to the Uncanny Valley, as well. If it moves in a basically-fluid (but not TOO fluid) manner, I'm okay with it.
        • He did not move in a fluid manner. It was way creepier than anamatronics in a way that's hard to describe. It was like a crab in a meat suit.
  • This mostly reminds me of the animatronic Philip K. Dick robot that some guys made, that had some kind tracking mechanism so that it would look at whoever was in front of it.
    • I remember that!!! And found it... actually, less uncanny-valley than animatronic Lincoln.
    • Unfortunately, the head of it was stolen a couple years ago.
  • (no subject) -
    • Actually, the Slate article I linked in the first line above does indeed touch on that question.
  • Oh dear. I've seen a few of those.

    Uncanny Valley really is a fascinating place. (Has someone named a sim that yet?) I also wonder if one's valley changes with getting accustomed to these sorts of things - would SL and similar rendergame players be less squicked by a real-world avatar than folks from a not-yet-wired society?

    I also think the UV varies by culture, but I have no idea why, and I'd love to see that explored. But just considering the smiley business - Japanese look at eyes more than mouth, Westerners reverse that, when judging expressions like happy or sad - makes me wonder.

    And of course, by one's resolution - skins and things which I thought were perfectly tolerable when I had a crap video card became EUGH when I saw more detail.

    But it really is fascinating stuff. The work of this guy has been fascinating me, actually:
    http://www.ed.ams.eng.osaka-u.ac.jp/research/0012/
    http://www.irc.atr.jp/Geminoid/
    http://www.pinktentacle.com/tag/kokoro/

    And for serious creepy only the Japanese could love:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1137747/Mini-Me-The-robot-doll-looks-sounds-just-like-you.html
    • Oh god Japan, how I love you, and how you're Utterly Broken.
    • They have girls dress up in BESM costumes to go on paid dates with men. I think the affair with creepy valley over there wandered into scaryville a long time ago.
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