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Robotics Hardware Technology

Famous 'Uncanny Valley' Essay Translated, Published In Full 70

Posted by timothy
from the he-looks-amazingly-realistic-too dept.
An anonymous reader writes "IEEE has published an English translation of the 1970 essay in which Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori introduced the now-famous concept of the Uncanny Valley. The original essay was in Japanese, and IEEE says this is the first publication of a translation authorized and reviewed by Mori. They also have an interview with Mori, who still thinks that robot designers should not attempt to 'cross' the Uncanny Valley."
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Famous 'Uncanny Valley' Essay Translated, Published In Full

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  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @10:43AM (#40295513)

    In his 1940s and 50s short stories, the science of robotics progressed from primitive metal men to humanoid form. But real humans objected that the robots acted unnaturally, and the government stepped in (per usual), and banned the production of human-looking robots.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I guess I'll have to go back and re-read them, but I never saw the "acted unnaturally" in any of the stories. Rather, people were simply afraid of losing their jobs to robots. In I, Robot (and its sequel, both collections of the stories you refer to) there was even a robot so real that you couldn't distinguish it from a human and it went on to become President of the world. The Elijia Baily books had R. Daneel, a fully humaniform robot you couldn't tell from the real McCoy (or maybe that's the "real Sarton)

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        In the Elija Baily books, there were several times where someone realized something was "off" about Daneel. Usually after the fact, they connected the dots, but I find it interesting...

  • Very interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by azalin (67640) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @10:48AM (#40295575)
    The whole concept is very interesting and should be mandatory reading for vr/cgi/games designers. The implications while focused on robotics also hold true for computer generated humans (and creatures) in movies and video games.
    • by Hentes (2461350)

      The difference is that in a video game you don't want the npc you just shot to act too human. Games depicting the death struggle of fallen opponents are already disturbing.

      • by azalin (67640)
        Killing is not the only npc interaction in video games. Especially rpgs or adventure type games have lots of animated scenes and dialogue. That said does anybody remember the npc deaths from "Crusader - no remorse / no regret" with violence turned on? That turned a nice isometric shooter into something disturbing.
        • by X0563511 (793323)

          The screams...

          • by azalin (67640)
            so you played it to...
            • by X0563511 (793323)

              God, I played the "No Remorse" demo countless times. No idea where I got it from.

              Long time since I managed to play the full versions, but by then they just felt so dated.

        • by ArhcAngel (247594)
          The first time I played Mass Effect through I actually found myself emotionally bonding with the npc's. It genuinely made certain critical game decisions harder. When I had to choose who to save on Vimire I chose Ashley because I really didn't feel like I had any connection to Kaiden. I'm not sure how that would change if the npc's were more lifelike. Per the ME example the npc's use live voice actors some so in that respect they are very lifelike but if the actual graphics became more realistic would it bo
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        Well, for you maybe, but not everyone. I find war movies like Saving Private Ryan or We Were Soldiers [wikipedia.org] to be far more disturbing, especially when the events in Soldiers were NOT fiction, and the gruesome details enacted really happened. Much of Private Ryan was real as well, especially the D-Day landing. That movie gave WWII veterans who had been there flashbacks.

      • by gblackwo (1087063)
        Perhaps it is a good thing to be disturbed.

        Earlier this semester, I had shown my roommate actual footage of insurgents being taken out from the air. He was a bit disturbed, but later that week when he bought Modern Warfare 3, he was more disturbed at how similar it was- and for the first time felt uneasy about pulling the trigger in a videogame.

        For a different anecdote, my father and I were on the highway, and we passed by a crew tossing animal corpses into a flatbed truck. Unexpectedly, to see them life
  • by vlm (69642) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @11:00AM (#40295789)

    The uncanny valley goes the other direction too.
    Too much work done on a human female by a plastic surgeon, hair stylist, body piercer, tattoo artist, or makeup artist makes her look really weird, you could even say "uncanny".

    I would postulate that a overlap situation either already exists or soon will, where a silicone female can be found who is weirder looking in the artificial direction than a silicon female in the human direction. This has interesting implications for hollywood and pr0n actors where at least some fraction of human beings are better replaced with CGI equivalents.

    • Very good point. I was going to post something like this.

      Hollywood stars, both male and female, who got too much plastic surgery would fall under the Uncanny Valley.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Too much work done on a human female by a plastic surgeon, hair stylist, body piercer, tattoo artist, or makeup artist makes her look really weird

      I always found fat women who wear too much makeup to be hilarious. Bad plastic surgery is just bad plastic surgery, I've known two women who had to have their faces repaired, one from a car wreck and one from an abusive husband. One was really good looking, the other was the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. Of course, the seventy year olds who have their faces

    • by identity0 (77976)

      Are you implying that human males who do so don't?

      Really curious why you left out men there.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Are you implying that human males who do so don't?

        Really curious why you left out men there.

        It's probably something to do with his deep seated misogyny, exacerbated by the fact that he is a virgin living in his mom's basement, and has a laughably tiny cock.

        At a guess.

  • The name captures the idea that an almost human-looking robot will seem overly "strange" to a human being, will produce a feeling of uncanniness, and will thus fail to evoke the empathic response required for productive human-robot interaction

    "Required" seems a little strong. If I'm going to talk about my day over coffee with the robot, sure. But I neither drink coffee nor talk about my day, lol. If I want the robot to go reboot server #42, I don't care how he feels or I feel about him (so very similar

  • Earlier hominids (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Empiric (675968) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @11:03AM (#40295829) Homepage
    It would be interesting to see where earlier hominids would fall along the "uncanny valley" curve. Perhaps by VR simulation or even cloning if we found some viable DNA for that.

    I'd like to see how this would play into conceptual, rather than perceptual, differentiation of "human", as, it seems most have no actual specifiable basis for this.

    (Note to attentive mods: Yes, I am indeed going for the record for most-subtle troll today. The karma will be worth it, and such an experiment I actually would like to see...)
    • by ignavus (213578)

      It would be interesting to see where earlier hominids would fall along the "uncanny valley" curve.

      There you go, always taking the Cro-Magnon side. Maybe if you looked at it from the early hominids' point of view, it's the modern humans who are the uncanny ones.

      Slashdot's not just for you modern hominids, you know. We primitive cavemen have feelings too.

      Now get out of my valley!

  • by peter303 (12292) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @11:06AM (#40295877)
    Its was both too fake and real. Polar express was like that too.

    Dreamwork artists said that had to make Shrek characters more cartoonist because they were getting too close to the Valley.
    • Really? I wasn't creeped out by Final Fantasy except when they kiss in space. In fact, when the bad guy pulls a gun against his head, I thought "Damn, what a scene!".

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @12:32PM (#40297067)

        Really? I wasn't creeped out by Final Fantasy except when they kiss in space. In fact, when the bad guy pulls a gun against his head, I thought "Damn, what a scene!".

        /me notes down "Cannot discern between corpses and characters, questionable taste in character development, most likely frothing Final Fantasy fan; Diagnosis: HIGHLY HAZARDOUS; Recommendations: Safe to ignore subject's artistic, writing, or video game tastes; Make sure to post anonymously to avoid having to talk to subject; Observe subject from afar to avoid spread of infection."

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      I was creeped out by the final fantasy movie because such a tremendous amount of resources (for the time) with such a tremendous potential (also for the time) and such a great collection of voice talent (by any measure) went into creating such an incoherent, annoying movie. It was like they were trying to be stupid on purpose.

      Final Fantasy could have been the Avatar of its time, (which is not necessarily a totally good thing, but that's another topic) but was instead a jumbled, irritating mess despite the

      • by tehcyder (746570)
        My main reaction to the Final Fantasy film was "how clever, this cartoon is almost as good as watching real third rate actors instead of animations".
        • by roc97007 (608802)

          Third rate? Seriously? Ming-Na, Donald Sutherland, Steve Buscemi, James Woods? What do you consider first rate? Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson?

          You have a point about an animated show trying to ape live actors -- if it's not appropriate to the material, it just looks goofy. But the idea of computer animation (or any digital effect) is to create environments and situations that you couldn't easily do live, to give the writers a richer landscape in which to tell their story. This is the real place

  • I've heard about the subject before, but I'd never been exposed to the original author's mention of death. I wonder if that is what it is all about? Our natural fear or aversion to death and dead bodies makes the uncanny valley happen. Given the stories of vampires, I'm not surprised the movement of a dead body evokes a steeper uncanny valley moment.
  • by drkstr1 (2072368) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @11:39AM (#40296279)
    Interesting read, but entirely subjective. How does one measure "affinity"? It seems as though the original author simply plotted a graph that matches his own perceptions. I suppose one could determine the data points through a survey, but I didn't see anything such in the essay (although I did just skim the second half, so maybe I missed it). Regardless, it doesn't seem very scientific to me. Interesting read though.
    • by tehcyder (746570)

      Interesting read, but entirely subjective. How does one measure "affinity"? It seems as though the original author simply plotted a graph that matches his own perceptions. I suppose one could determine the data points through a survey, but I didn't see anything such in the essay (although I did just skim the second half, so maybe I missed it). Regardless, it doesn't seem very scientific to me. Interesting read though.

      An essay doesn't have to be scientific to be interesting. There is no way this could ever be measured objectively anyway, any more than something like "beuaty". That doesn't mean there's no point in discussing aesthetics.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm not advocating for either candidate, I just remembered this article from the Atlantic and am passing it along because I think the whole idea is pretty funny: "The Uncanny Valley: What Robot Theory Tells Us About Mitt Romney." [theatlantic.com]

  • I now understand my reaction to Weekend at Bernie's. No, it was not Bernie that disturbed me.
  • Let's eliminate discussion of robots and just concentrate on prosthetics. The author argues that when someone loses an eye, they shouldn't get an artificial eye put in, rather they should look stylish with a patch. This clearly isn't the choice of the vast majority of people missing an eye as they prefer something closer to their natural appearance. Now, you can argue that an artificial eye is distracting and fits within Uncanny Valley by making others uncomfortable.

    But that occurs only because the eye isn'

  • The original essay was in Japanese

    If only the Japanese would read it and heed its lessons... [imgur.com]

  • They also have an interview with Mori, who still thinks that robot designers should not attempt to 'cross' the Uncanny Valley."

    Why not? Worked just fine to me... people react a lot less awkwardly to me now :)

  • by stiebing.ja (836551) on Tuesday June 12, 2012 @06:04PM (#40301689)
    ... the video of the robot Octavia in action [youtube.com] to get a feeling of it. Developed by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) [navy.mil] it looks so much like a mixture of Alien (out of the famous movie) and the cute Nao [aldebaran-robotics.com] that it is the most scary thing I ever saw moving.

    This thing is so far in the Uncanny Valley - you could also just call him "Uncle Vanney".
    It's look is strange enough that my brain just can't decide wether it's cute or evil, so decides to panic and makes we want to flee immediatly - and might it be into the open flames...

    (Just to be on the safe side: I for one welcome our new firefighting Octavia lords)
    • by tehcyder (746570)
      I really don't think you have grasped the concept of the uncanny valley quite right. Octavia looks nothing like a human being. It has a cartoon face and moves like a tank. It's about as scary as a microwave oven with bunny ears pinned on the side.
      • Agreed that it's no humanoid, but thats not always necessary to get trapped in the valley. As Octavia sends out social signals through its somewhat cartoon like face, your emotional brain is triggered. The converse signals received from the unhuman moving then sends you right into the uncannines.

16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone = 1 Rod Serling

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