The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'mori's uncanny valley'


The latest Japanese innovation for keeping its growing elderly population company: a robotic seal. Named "Paro", the therapeutic robot responds to touches and adapts its personality to its owner's; the human mind's tendency to see the illusion of agency does the rest.

I'm not sure why they chose a seal rather than a more conventional companion animal, though perhaps because, due to the unfamiliarity of seals as domestic pets, an apparently living plush toy would be less likely to fall into Mori's uncanny valley than, say, a fake dog or cat.

Paro is being tested in hospitals and nursing homes in Japan, where it has reportedly had positive results.

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Two artists in Berlin have created a digital camera which automatically edits smiles onto the subjects:

The camera „Artificial Smile“ is an apparat, whose pictures show in principle only smiling people, irrespective of their former emotional state. The camera uses a pool of pictures with smiling faces, which was created beforehand, to replace the mouthes of the pictured people with smiling ones. To generate to maximum level of exaggeration it was knowingly renounced to show the laughter/smile realistically. Unlike the cameras commercially available on the market and their autoretouch function “Artificial Smile” distorts the context of the picture, reinforced formally by the golden reflecting body of the camera.

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The social network site Facebook is supported by advertising. Being a social network site, it has the advantage of being able to serve (anonymously) targeted ads to its users, who volunteer demographic information about themselves in using the site; advertisers can target ads to users whose profiles or recent activities match certain criteria. Unfortunately, when handled clumsily, the effect can be disconcerting or creepy:

One campaign that flooded the site in recent weeks, before Facebook cracked down on it, tries to take advantage of consumer interest in Apple’s iPad. “Are you a fan of Eddie Izzard? We need 100 music and movie lovers to test and KEEP the new Apple iPad,” one version of the ad says. Louis Allred Jr., 29, a Facebook user in Los Angeles who saw the ad, said he figured it was shown to him because he or a friend had expressed enthusiasm for Mr. Izzard, a British comedian, on their profiles.
Off-key and/or sleazy ads on Facebook are nothing new, of course; ads juxtaposing pictures of hot chicks with unrelated, often dubious-looking, offers, for example, have been on the service for years, and presumably have snared a number of not particularly discerning individuals. But now Facebook are allowing advertisers to effectively write templates to be filled in with users' details ("SPECIAL OFFER FOR $gender AGED $(age-1)-$(age+1) WHO LIKE $interest"). Which sounds like a way to game unmerited trust out of punters, but, more often than not, falls into an uncanny valley, falling short of being convincing and coming off as unsettling, or worse:
Women who change their status to “engaged” on Facebook to share the news with their friends, for example, report seeing a flood of advertisements for services and products like wedding photographers, skin treatments and weight-loss regimens.
And the knowledge that ads are targeted by some data-mining algorithm can, in itself, add a dimension of unease to what might well be coincidences:
Jess Walker, 22, from central Florida, was recently presented an ad for Plan B, the morning-after pill. “What do I have on my Facebook page that would lead them to believe I would need that?” she asked, adding that she did not want her sexual behavior called into question.

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The latest bizarre Japanese product is Photogenic Masks, which "have been created for anyone who desires to become a girl quickly and easily" (presumably one of those Japanese market niches that doesn't translate so well abroad). The graphic says it all:

If the plasticky, platinum-haired faces straight out of Mori's Uncanny Valley didn't quite induce the appropriate sense of unease, the knife stabbing the flower helps nicely.

(via Gizmodo) bizarre creepy japan mori's uncanny valley 0


Meanwhile, Japanese roboticists have developed a lifelike "female" android. Apparently Repliee Q1, which moves and even appears to breathe like a human, is so realistic that unconsciously, people forget that it is a non-sentient machine:

"More importantly, we have found that people forget she is an android while interacting with her. Consciously, it is easy to see that she is an android, but unconsciously, we react to the android as if she were a woman."
The researchers plan to make even more realistic robots (all of which, for some reason, tend to be modelled on women or young girls; perhaps that has something to do with the objectification of women Japanese culture or something?), and believe that they can get robots which can fool humans into believing they are real for up to 10 minutes in controlled situations.

Putting this together with the recent Swiss cockroach robot research suggests a lot of opportunities. Maybe we'll see Japanese android trials involving fembots successfully luring sararimen out of karaoke bars, or something similar.

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Tetka, an interactive Flash toy in which an oddly rubbery, physics-obeying female mannequin (which looks to be either the corpse of a drugged stripper, a perversely erotic crash-test dummy or a sex doll from well within Mori's Uncanny Valley) falls through an infinite void of spheres, hitting and bouncing off spheres, its limbs flailing realistically. It's compelling whilst at the same time disturbing.

(via imomus, bOING bOING) flash mori's uncanny valley russian web toys 0


It's easy enough to believe that there are communities of people who enjoy making and swapping computer-generated pr0n with rendered models in a variety of lascivious poses. What's a bit harder to believe is that there is an industry catering to this market segment, selling everything from realistic pubic hair textures, whipped skin textures and lewd facial expressions to an extensive range of 3D models of bondage restraints, and vast ranges of posable models, from the usual b4b3z, leathermen and Nazi dominatrices to mermaids, tentacled demons and deluxe models with features such as "optional third breast". (via bOING bOING)

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An article on the new generation of computer-generated über-babes, as seen in films, ads and Taschen coffee-table yuppie-erotica books, and soon to be taking jobs from yesteryear's meat-based supermodels.

Interestingly enough, the most impressive examples of computer-generated models are those with meticulously-computed imperfections (of the sort that get photoshopped out of photographs of live models). Though these are outnumbered by male geeks' idealised fantasy images of The Perfect Woman:

Obsessive behaviour often creates obsessive subject matter. Which is perhaps why a fair chunk of Weidemann's book could be written off as coffee-table porn. For every hyper-realistic exploration of a digital woman, such as Kaya, Digital Beauties features three with unrealistically large breasts. But filter out the provocative imagery of scantily clad women and you will discover some of the finest examples of computer graphics yet produced. Take Daniel Robichaud's hauntingly real digital resurrection of Marlene Dietrich. The Canadian animator chose the German chanteuse as the subject of his digital model and brought her back to life a decade after her death. The effect is simply breathtaking.

And then there's the story of Annlee, rescued from copyright slavery by two artists and now living it up in the creative commons:

As the critic Elizabeth Bard commented in the art magazine Contemporary, until the pair of French artists freed her from the Manga studio, Annlee was no more than an extra, "destined to live no more than a few pages in a comic book or frames of a film". Instead, Annlee has enjoyed a rather more illustrious career, showing at the Venice Biennalle, the New York Guggenheim, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London before culminating in a solo show called No Ghost Just a Shell at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art earlier this year.

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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)

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