Travels in the uncanny valley

Here’s a screencast of my talk at the Rochester Institute of Technology Symposium on VR/AR Technology.

It is from 3 December and a little low-key, so drink a little coffee before you start watching so you don’t fall asleep. Amazingly, the MAGIC Center had no lecture recording, so I’ve recreated it here with about 60% less energy because I was sitting down the whole time.



In 1970, Masahiro Mori posited the existence of an “uncanny valley” in the human perception and appreciation of robotics. This hypothesis suggests that, as robots become more ‘human like’ that our appreciation of them increases — right up to a crucial point where we find them too realistic but not perfectly so. At this point, human preference plummets into the aforementioned chasm. Despite the fact that much has been written about this phenomena, there is little scientific evidence of its existence. Obviously this phenomena isn’t limited to robotics and has been observed in many other areas. These include the fine arts, especially in photorealistic painting, sculpture, computer graphics, traditional animation, and more recently in the rotoscoping / motion capture used in contemporary filmmaking. The informal and heuristic practices of the fine arts, especially those of traditional animation have much to offer to our understanding of the appearance of reality. In this talk, we will examine some historical perspective of the UV as well as virtual and augmented reality-centric questions.