Thesis I – Project Blog 10

Lipsync and eye controller added. All blendshapes are done. I wish to add wrinkle maps but currently that has been put on the back burner. Head turns, eyes blink, and lipsync shapes is about 50% done


Working on a procedural car generator. Although I will be reworking the concept to incorporate multiple curves and use sweep or rails.


Background

                        Theme parks are places where families go to let loose and be entertained. They are full of creative art pieces from the overall themes to the attractions themselves. Many artists, designers, and engineers has spent years working on designs to immerse audiences. A great an example is at Universal Orlando Islands of Adventure. There is an area that is dedicated to the Harry Potter universe. As soon as you walk through the entrance, you are immediately immersed. Everything from the ground, the buildings, the shops, sounds and the rides are designed in a way to mimic the books and movies. Places like this can ignite and spark creativity. For me, was the place that inspired my project.

Anyone who has visited any amusement park or resort will agree waiting in line is part of the experience. Knowing this, creatives who build the attractions, design sets that try to distract you from the wait time. One environment that stood out to me was in the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at Universal Orlando. As you make your way through Hogwarts Castle, you come to a room with a tall ceiling. Within this room are paintings that are assorted on walls above the visitors. If one stood and observed, they would notice these portraits are not ordinary paintings but are animated. They move and talk among themselves. Fooling the visitors into believe they are alive. Seeing this I was amazed. Not only by the presentation and immersion but how people, including myself, were reacting. Visitors were standing around watching and interested in the character, but as they returned, they already knew what to expect. They have lived the experienced. The immersion fell apart because of the repetitions and limited interactions. This problem led me down a tunnel of questions. What would take this concept to another level? What if the paintings saw a person? Or if they responded back to the visitors? What if they would drove a story so each person would have a unique experience every time they visited? How would the audience react? Would they feel for the character? These questions brought my project to life.

Designing my project, I knew I desired to have a painting that could interact with the audience. I wanted a character that would be able to seek and determine the presentence of a person and try to communicate with that person. My curiously lead me to see if I could develop an interaction that could allow individuals to emotionally connect with an artificial being. This was a challenge considering the scope of the programming requirements needed and the limitations of the hardware, but I knew it was possible. As I progressed with the project, I started to see something interesting that happened. Each element of the character became more like me. Visually, the character is an old man, but his personality, intentions, expressions and message are mirror of myself. This discovery encouraged me. It gave me the freedom to communicate a message that could directly affect a person emotionally. As well as giving an individual a unique experience with this character. Although I was startled how much of me is within the piece, I have accepted the result. It brought my own mentality and personality to my attention. In turn, allowing myself to design an experience were the audience can create their own thoughts about the character without knowing they actually met a part of myself.

Thesis I – Project Blog 9

Notes from a Houdini Tutorials that I will be referencing to for the final project.

https://www.sidefx.com/tutorials/sci-fi-panel-generator/


Studio:

  • Fix weird depth of field issue. I am guessing its just the focus plane that we are seeing needs less compression.
  • Figure out a fix for the constant confidence level. Problem is if someone speaks, it will stay on the same level. I am guessing I might need to make a variable or an api update.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

Intro

The world as we know it is saturated with smart technology. From the moment we wake up to the minute we fall asleep, we interact and coexist with some sort of A.I. every day. As our relationship with technology deepens, our bond strengthens with these synthetic beings. Ask another person about a digital assistant like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa. What would they say about this entity? How would they categorize it? Instinctually, they would give it a human-like characteristics, and traits. Almost humanizing the A.I. that they are interacting with. The term for this phenomenon is called anthropomorphism. To anthropomorphize is to give “human characteristics to animals, inanimate objects or natural phenomena.” (Nauert) This action, to humanize, is a way for humans to comprehend and predict another’s intentions, and behavior. Such as with any piece of technology we interact with, we instinctually humanize it. Inadvertently, leaving a digital fingerprint of ourselves with it. Whether it’s an image or text. we project ourselves on this object. As in my project, I crafted a character that representations what I believe is a piece of my personality. Even as I tried to stay unbiased in creating many different variations, the character within the piece still has properties that speak to me. Every animation, color, model, and sound are part of my psyche that is imprinted within the work. The combination of these elements are what I would call my avatar.

This piece of art is my voice that I am presenting to the audience. As an artist, I like to stand back and observe viewers as they interact with my work. Having the portrait act as my avatar gives me that freedom. It allows me to speak through a different voice as if I put a mask on. Cloaking my actual identity and distancing myself yet allowing me to portray my message to them. I believe anthropomorphizing the portrait painting will influence the viewer intensifying the connection with the character. Even though they know he is a digital being, they will comprehend him as being real. With this belief, the viewer should unconsciously emotionally and curiously explore what he has to say, or rather what I might have to say.

Thesis I – Project Blog 6

Below are the screenshots of my procedural bridge for procedural art course. This bridge has numerous parameter which can be edited in Unreal. The curve which determines the bridges length can be moved as well. Extended or shrunk. I did noticed Houdini seems to be buggy at times and crashes. UVing is going to prove difficult but I shall see. Hopefully it all comes out well.


Defense 3: Uncanny Valley

As artists, designers, and creators, we often to explore the boundaries of our art. Traversing through different type of styles in search of what calls to us. Nevertheless, an artist will sooner or later stumble upon the style of realism. Realism in art can be defined as “the theory or practice of fidelity in art and literature to nature or to real life and to accurate representation without idealization”. (Merriam-Webster) The desire to create accurate representations of real life has no doubly changed the way we think and interact with digital art in the last couple of decades. Visuals in movies has been inching closer to visually mimicking life. Robotic customer support has progressed in mimicking human voice and expressions. These advancements in technology is remarkable but there is a problem with achieving visual realism. Humans have a high awareness and understanding in recognizing differences between living and non-living. (Angela Tinwell)

As humans are social beings, we are driving by social cues. With these cues, we are aware and can make predictions about interactions we might come across. If these cues are disrupted, mismatched, or inconsistent, we will spot them. Visually speaking, as we increase the realism, the more the information we receive. With the increase of information, the greater chance of error will be spotted. Creating a sense of eeriness or disgust. (Pollick) This phenomenon is called the uncanny valley.

In 1970, the Japanese professor and robotics, Dr. Masahiro Mori, discovered (Hsu) (Pollick) that as an object, such as an robot or a digital character, becomes more humanlike or anthropomorphic, it’s attraction will increase until a point in which there is a drastic negative effect. (Pollick) Examples of objects that lie within the uncanny valley, as Dr. Mori included, was corpse, prosthetics limbs and zombies. (Angela Tinwell) When a viewer experiences the phenomenon, they will feel an eerie sensation, uneased and/or feel disgusted. (Rouse) To avoid such symptoms, Dr. Mori, suggested designer to work until the first peak of the uncanny valley and not to seek out the second peak. (Angela Tinwell) Despite his suggestions, artists have striding to achieve the second peak. Films such as Tin Toy (Hsu), Final Fantasy (Pollick), and The Polar Express (Jakub A. Zlotowski) have failed because of the reactions were negative due to them falling into the valley. Researchers have been studying on what causes this phenomenon. No one is exactly sure what trigger this effect, but multiple hypothesis has been created and might explain why we can experience this phenomenon.

One concept is a survival instinct to help us avoid pathogens. (Shensheng Wang) Some researchers have speculated that humans evolved to predict and react to minor changes in appearances of others. This feeling disgust is might to avoid people that have diseases and prevent us from such disease. (Hsu) This avoidance could be considered as survival tactic deeming the inconsistences in the anthropomorphic character as repulsive. Another concept that could explain what triggers the uncanny valley is our perceptual processing ability. (Shensheng Wang)

As noted in this paper, we instinctually recognize facial features. We are highly sensitive to this information because of the familiarity of it. Researchers suggest that with this heighten awareness we are attracted to certain physical features, shapes, and the health. If the actor is inconsistent to what we know, we instantly become unattracted to it. (Shensheng Wang) If a voice is mismatched to a face or appearance, can trigger this effect as we expect certain features to relate with one another. Movements can drastically increase the effect. As noted earlier, I explained how important biological movements are to humans. Born with the preference to viewing the motions, are naturally familiar with them. If visual appearance and movements mismatch, the eeriness increases because we are unable to predict the outcome correctly. (Shensheng Wang) This disruption of information causes humans to fail at categorizing the other actor. (Pollick) I noted before if we can not categorize another person or actor, we become uncertain and start to fall back on stereotypes to process and understand them. Most likely relying on features we are familiar with. This concept is interesting as it relates to theory of mind and our social cognitive.

So could the uncanny valley occur because we predict, and try to comprehend everything we observe or interact with? Is it because we are social beings seeking out connections with others? I believe it is all the above. We can assume failure to reach total realism of an anthropomorphic character can cause problems with our ability to predict and comprehend. This inability and failed expectations will cause us to begin to panic and feel nervous but not all characters will fall into uncanny valley. There is research that the more an individual interacts with anthropomorphic characters, even if they are eerie, the more they gradually become more familiar. (Angela Tinwell) This repeating habit could circumvent and reducing the effect of the uncanny valley. As we interact more often with anthropomorphic characters, maybe we our perspective will change, and the valley will shrink. Desensitizing us from noticing the inconsistencies between what is living and nonliving.

Thesis I – Project Blog 5

This week, I worked on my studio project. My task was to start the blendshapes and get most done. I got most created and have about 12 left. I plan on working this week on wrapping it up and importing it into Unity and attaching LipSync. Also reminder to me: both top & bottom teeth are not UVed. Copy UVs from the combined game mesh for the final piece.

Here are some tests:


ROUGH ROUGH DRAFT of defense 2: Social cognition

Defense 2: Social Cognition

            Anthropomorphism and theory of mind intertwine with one another. As noted earlier, they trigger the temporoparietal junction in our brains highlighting the connection between, but anthropomorphism goes further than theory of mind. The phenomena can affect our cognitive function that processes how we perceive others, and how we view the surrounding world. (Cherry, Social Cognition in Psychology) Psychologists who study this process called it social cognition.

Social cognition is the “mental processes that (are) involved in perceiving, remembering, thinking about, and attending to the other people in our social world.” (Cherry, Social Cognition in Psychology) These processes influence how people behave, form impressions, and react to others. Simply put, it is the way we store, process, and interact with other living and non-living entities. Many things can encourage the develop of our social abilities such as culture, ideologies, experiences and so on. With anthropomorphism in mind, this cognitive ability grants humans an efficient way for our minds to process social stimulus that engulfs us every day. Predicting, and comprehending is important to us hence why we anthropomorphize the unknown. It puts the current unknown entity into context reducing uncertainty and allows for a simple way to communicate and socially reason to others about them. (Atherton) Therefore, anthropomorphism allows for an efficient way to socially predict and comprehend. Unfortunately, this mental efficiency can come at a cost.

Visually, we are highly sensitive to humanlike characteristics. (Agnieszka Wykowska) Our awareness of the difference between living and inanimate is impressive. As earlier, I explain how we naturally favor smooth human-like movements, called biological motions and how we are born with facial recognition but even with those traits, we make assumptions on what we observe. (Susan R. Fussell) When we interact with entities, we assign categories based on stimuli such as facial features and shapes, body shapes, gender, etc. When humans cannot understand the actor, we unknowingly rely on stereotypes we have learned to process their behaviors, and traits. (Susan R. Fussell) As the actor becomes more similar in appearance to oneself, the more we are likely to reference ourselves and anthropomorphize the non-human entity. (Atherton) Either anthropomorphizing or not, we judge because it allows us to create make assumptions. This assumption allows for forecast of behaviors of the entity and the environment that we are surrounded in. Another important aspect of social cognition is the need for connection that we draw from when we interaction with others.

Human beings desire and crave for some type of interaction that has the potential to produce a connection, emotionally and/or physically. From infants to adults, the social connection between others is a survival instinct. Plucking a person out of their social life, or rather, banish an individual would be a “death sentence for one’s genetic inheritance”. (Atherton) This type of punishment can have an enormous effect to an individual. Lacking or being withdrawn from social connections can influence and trigger the same neural functions that can induce physical pain. (Atherton) This pain may lead the individual to seek for a connection elsewhere. Requiring the person to seek a social connection and will start to anthropomorphize nonhuman entities to satisfy their lust. This basic motivation has been researched and found out that the lonelier a person is, the more they have connected with anthropomorphize objects. (Adam Waytz) Satisfying our need for a connection is important whether its fulfilled by living or nonliving entities. We need “someone” to survive.

Anthropomorphizing has its benefits. It allows us to be able to predict, to comprehend, and to make assumptions about the uncertainty. Lonely individuals that are deprived from social connection and interaction will anthropomorphize and feel at ease. Anthropomorphizing, to me, is about efficiency. This efficiency enables us to expect future actions from others. Removing the uncertainty that we as humans try so hard to unveil and learn what lies within.

 

Works Cited

Adam Waytz, Nicholas Epley, and John T. Cacioppo. "Social Cognition Unbound: Insights Into Anthropomorphism and Dehumanization." Psychological Science. 19 February 2010.

Agnieszka Wykowska, Thierry Chaminade, and Gordon Cheng. "Embodied Artificial Agents for Understanding Human Social Cognition." Philosophical Transacations B, 19 February 2016.

Airenti, Gabriella. "The Development of Anthropomorphism in Interaction: Intersubjectivity, Imagination, and Theory of Mind." (2018). <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6231421/>.

Atherton, Gray and Cross, Liam. "Seeing More Than Human: Autism and Anthropomorphic Theory of Mind." (2018). <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5932358/>.

Cherry, Kendra. How the Theory of Mind Helps Us Understand Others. 26 July 2019. <https://www.verywellmind.com/theory-of-mind-4176826>.

—. "Social Cognition in Psychology." Very Well Mind, 13 August 2019. <www.verywellmind.com/social-cognition-2795912>.

Drubach, Daniel A. "The Purpose and Neurobiology of Theory of Mind Functions." Blanton-Peale Institute, 18 December 2007. Online.

Karolina Zawieska, Brian R. Duffy, and Agnieszka Spronska. "Understanding Anthropomorphisation in Social Robots." Pomiary Automatyka Robotyka. November 2012.

Leslie, A.M. "Theory of Mind." International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. Elsevier Ltd, 2001. <https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/theory-of-mind>.

Nauert, Dr. Rick. PsychCentral. 15 June 2019.

Nicholas Epley, Adam Waytz, and John T. Cacioppo. "On Seeing Human: A Three-Factor Theory of Anthropomorphism." Psychological Review. The American Psychological Association, 2007.

Susan R. Fussell, Sara Kiesler, Leslie D. Setlock, and Victoria Yew. "How People Anthropomorphize Robots." Carnegie Mellon University, 12 March 2008.

Thompson, Brittany N. Psychology Today. 03 July 2017. Website. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/socioemotional-success/201707/theory-mind-understanding-others-in-social-world>.


 

Blog Entry – Research and Project Updates – 2019 #13

This week I have been working numerous projects. First project is my human interaction final. As of now, I am struggling to get an heart rate from skin conductivity. I believe I will have to redesign the project to simulate the heart rate when the box is touched and held. Although I do have some time to develop it before the need to redesign it.

The other project I worked on this week was the 3d digital art final. I finally got a character that “fits” my requirement for the project. Here is a screenshot:

I am going to do a polish pass of the face and detail it out with wrinkles, defects, and to make the face asymmetrical. Also the character’s face has multiple layers that allows me to remove the beard and make the face fuller or not but the only thing I am deciding on is the clothes.  I haven’t figured out the style yet but I am feeling something Victorian or Gothic suit.

 

Tutorials/Interesting Videos:

 

Scifi Decal Panels – Substance

SciFi Decal Panels Substance

Software

  • Allegorithmic Substance Designer
  • Unity Engine

Substance Graph

Features

Description:

SciFi Decal Panels is a procedural material created in Substance Designer. With so many features, the material can be used in numerous applications and environments such as space stations/ships, futuristic environments, Decals for ceilings, floors, or walls, etc. The texture is using PBR metalness/roughness workflow and was created with realism in mind.

The goal of the project was to create a “kit” that could be used to help designers speed up detailing a environment with a many different panel decals in a instant. As well as exploring and understanding the use of procedural kits using Substance Designer.

Blog Entry – Research and Project Updates – 2019 #8

This week I have been focusing on finishing up my substance kit. Currently, I am finalizing the color maps but I have been running into constant issues. For example, I work on a certain shape setup then turn on another and it does not work or a switch does not turn off. Trying to debug this rat’s nest is horrible but I am making way. I am planning on tomorrow as the final day to work in substance designer. The rest will be in Unity using the kit.

Here are the current graph and in editor 3d/texture:

After finishing this project, I will move onto working on the character as I am going to create a proposal presentation. I am going to focus more on the sculpt and what references I will follow. Other information I will be deciding: back story, style, time period, and final render for the sculpt. I am also hoping I find some time to do a few more sketches to help my direction.

 

Spotter #7

Spotter #7

 

Hardware Components Used

  • 1 Photo-resistor
  • 2 Green LEDs
  • 1 Cardboard cutout
  • 2 330Ω Resistors
  • 1 10k Resistor
  • 1 Servo Motor
  • Arduino Uno Board
  • Breadboard
  • 5-volt power
  • 11 wires
  • Light

Concept

 

Description:

Spotter#7 is a little cardboard robot endlessly sweeps 180 looking for a friend.  When it finds a friend, it stops and blinks to show that it has spotted the person. If the person moves away fast, it will continue with its path and keep sweeping. If the person remains for longer time and then moves, the robot will shake back and forth in disapproval. After the reaction, it will begin sweeping endlessly to find a friend.

The emotional response expected from this piece is compassion towards the little robot. The personal value of the piece was the challenge of designing the interaction. Originally, it was designed to use a temperature sensor to detect the interaction. Plans changed when the only sensor I had was damaged and I had to rework the piece. I decided to swap out the sensor for a photo-resistor. Even with the redesign, the piece is enjoyable.

Other Technical Information:

This interactive piece is using a servo and a photo-resistor. It requires a spotlight to light the “friend”. Since the lighting is important with this piece, the photo-resistor can be set for either, back lit or front lit, to make it work correctly. The servo motor has a sweep from 0 to 180. The speed of the sweep is randomized after every completed rotation to break up the repetitions of the piece.

Blog Entry – Research and Project Updates – 2019 #7

This week I focused on completing my substance designer project. After a week of working on it, I realized that designing the concept for the “kit” should have been my first task. Designing on the fly with a node base system…….makes a mess.

I tried using other graphs which helped clean stuff up a bit but I ended up using one main graph so I can expose more parameters. Maybe with more time, I can figure out a way to reference other graphs’ parameters.

After this weekend’s grind, I am at the final stretch. With the project due date being extended, I can put more time into coloring and give it a polish pass. A major issue I am having is with the height depth. Everything looks flat even after the tessellation. I might have to go in the beginning of the graph where I declared the basic shapes, and create a basic bevel to give it some dynamics.

Here are some screenshots from unity – displaying the kit:

My other projects/journey, I have not had the chance to drop the lipsync plugin into Unity. The instructions seem intense so I will dive into that this week. I have a feeling I will have to import a character with a facial rig (using blendshapes) to make sure it works in my Unity project. I think if I can get it imported Unity and working (or seem like it is working), I need to get it interacting with the kinect. From there, I should be in a good place to start sculpting the character. Although…..

I am worrying a little at this point. It is already HALF WAY through the semester!

I have to start shifting my time into the semester paper. I have an idea about the paper. Something along the lines of color and the affects on humans but I am not sure. I need to create an outline or proposal first.