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.