The Null Device

Here be monsters

Mori's Uncanny Valley is the phenomenon in human perception of human-like entities that accounts for people feeling revulsion when they see zombies in a horror movie. Put simply, the theory postulates that the relationship between similarity to human appearance and movement and emotional response is not a straight line; instead, there is a peak shortly before the appearance becomes completely human -- and then response dives into visceral horror, as the not-quite-human object enters the realm of moving corpses, blasphemous abominations and Things That Should Not Be, looking too human, yet somehow loathsomely unnatural. First postulated in the 1970s, the Uncanny Valley theory is behind advise to make all human-like agents/robots look slightly stylised, just enough to appear distinctly non-human and not trigger the sensations of horror.

Via the story of the guy who mistook his girlfriend for a robot -- or rather made a lifelike animated head modelled on said girlfriend's head, and wired with cameras, motors and software. David Hanson, the roboticist in question, is not an adherent of the Uncanny Valley theory, or believes that he can cross said valley and come out at the other side. (via jwz)

There are 2 comments on "Here be monsters":

Posted by: mark Thu Aug 14 10:27:28 2003

Reminds me of that HG Wells story where the protagonist washes up ashore a private Mad Scientist's island (as you do), and discovers that he's been vivisecting them to make 'em look more human, and using various psychological tricks to make them behave like humans. Eventually he loses control of them, though, and they resort to their animal ways... with sexy results.

Not sexy. Um... gory.

Anyway, the protagonist returns to England, but goes mad. He can't stand being around people too long: he always imagines those with elongated ears are foxes, those with sharpish teeth are wolves, and so on, and can't relax in their presence for the fear that they'll revert to an animal state.

Ah, yes, good book.

Posted by: David Thu Aug 14 12:20:17 2003

Pretty deep, eh? :)