The Uncanny Valley

Yet the humans’ skin could not be too realistic.  It was well known that as depictions of humans became more lifelike, audiences would perceive them as more appealing — until the realism reached a certain point, close to human but not quite, when suddenly the depictions would be perceived as repulsive.  The phenomenon, known as the "uncanny valley," had been hypothesized by a Japanese robotics researcher, Masahiro Mori, as early as 1970.  No one knew precisely why it happened, but the sight of nearly human forms seemd to trigger some primeval aversion in onlookers.  Thus, the minute details of human skin, such as pores and hair follicles, were left out of The Incredibles’ characters in favor of a deliberately cartoonlike appearance.

That is from David A. Price’s very interesting The Pixar Touch.  Here is Jason Kottke on The Uncanny Valley.


It'll be nice to tell folks I know about The Uncanny Valley from something other than 30 Rock.

The concept may be new to some of you, but it's hardly new. For instance, Wikipedia has had an "uncanny valley" article since January 2004.

I for one would like to see a horror film that exploits the uncanny valley to good effect.

Doesn't Marilyn Manson belong just to the left of Madonna's spread in Jason's chart?

I have found that this is true in genetic technology. You can cross all sorts of genes among species & most people will be more-or-less ok with it. But, if somebody ever gives a cat or a monkey genes that give them human-looking skin, there will be a major freak-out.

Here is a web page of an artist commenting on these things, but I wonder if the work really is just using the uncanny valley to cause discomfort.

People under estimate just how much detail we unconsciously take in with our senses and an incomplete, distortion or contradiction in the sensory info triggers the repulsion.
It's not that it's too real it's that it is not quite real enough. We look for the something that is missing or in conflict if the illusion is too complex and that shatters it.

Or an animated corpse.

Pores are kind of gross anyway. I always find women less attractive up close.

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