Update on my Uncanny Valley Research and thoughts

I actually wrote today’s posts several days ago, but between an exciting but time-consuming video-editing job over the weekend followed by illness I haven’t had time to rewrite them properly and post them, so here goes.

I’ve been continuing with research on The Uncanny Valley, whilst David and I start to put together an appropriate survey on the subject, and I’ve turned up a fair amount of interesting information. Some books that I have read on animation only describe the concept in passing, and suggest that the only way around it is to create models with obviously cartoon-like features. While this does solve the problem it doesn’t advance animation as a field any.

Many articles describe a completely human appearance as the ‘holy grail’ of animation, and several techniques such as the Emily Project have attempted to overcome this using facial motion capture. (The process is explained here.) Others have gone for a hyper realism effect, which isn’t realist but is detailed enough to transcend the Uncanny dip and would probably be placed somewhere on the upward curve (This is just a guess, though I would like to use some examples in the survey and see what people think.) A good example is this demo clip ‘Agni’s Philosophy’ shown by Animation/Game company Square Enix at E3 2012.

I showed this clip to some of my family, and for the first few scenes of the short film they were convinced that it was live-action.
It shows what animation (especially for games) will be like in 5-6 years time, perhaps, though at present this kind of level probably won’t be possible due to the constraints of technology and the time needed to build this.

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3 thoughts on “Update on my Uncanny Valley Research and thoughts

  1. It’s interesting to think how games will look like in 5 years time, will they become hyper real? There are so many different factors that can make a 3D character “real” or believable let’s say. Apart from looks and movement often the connection with the character or interaction it might be important. Here is a video of a demo that was presented 3 years ago at the E3 2009: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDvHlwNvXaM .Although the boy looks realistic enough what makes him more believable is the interaction you can have with that character. a
    Also, you mentioned in your post, some of your family members thought that the characters in the video were real…do you think that the Uncanny Valley also depends on people’s exposure or experience with the animation/games? And if it is, do people get used to the slightly awkward movement of 3D models and gradually ignore it or do they become more sensitive at noticing the imperfections?

    • That was an angle David and I considered looking at – surveying people who work with animation, or people who grew up with the current animation/game technology, and finding out whether they are more or less affected, but we weren’t sure whether we could fit that much research in the word limit of the report. We are adding questions about age range and profession/area of study, and seeing if there is some correlation.

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