Even Monkeys Recognize The Uncanny Valley

By Eric Eisenberg 2010-03-09 12:37:22discussion comments
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Much like James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis has always been a director on the cutting edge of film technology. The most recent way he has cemented this title is through his exclusive use of motion capture in The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol. There is a serious problem with this filming technique, however, and it is called "the uncanny valley."

To put it simply, the Uncanny Valley is that creepy feeling you get when you look behind the eyes of motion capture characters and discover the lack of a soul. To be more scientific about it, it is a theory that "when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers." (Thanks Wikipedia!) One word you might notice is stuck in there is "theory;" the uncanny valley has not yet been proven as scientific fact. Thanks to some monkeys it might be proven soon.

In the recent issue of Scientific American (preview the article here), a study was recently conducted at Princeton University where macaques were presented both real and animated images of monkey faces and the time looking at the faces was calculated. According to the results, the monkeys were quick to turn away from the animated faces, which scientists speculated was because, "realistic animations might resemble sickly or diseased animals because they lack subtle cues of health such as normal skin texture and hue—and that an aversion to such sights may have evolved to keep us healthy."

So there it is. You were totally in the right when you started crying at the sight of Santa Clause, King Hrothgar and Ebenezer Scrooge. On that same note, don't punish yourself for ogling the sight of Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother. You are only human after all.
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