Overcoming the Uncanny Valley: by Jeff Fleetwood
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Wikipedia: The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of aesthetics which holds that when features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural beings, it causes a response of revulsion among some observers. The “valley” refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of beings as subjects move toward a healthy, natural likeness described in a function of a subject’s aesthetic acceptability.
Overcoming the uncanny valley: As the technology of graphics cards and CPU’s continues to push the limits of whats possible, how much longer will it be before even the most observant will not be able to distinguish video from a computer generated image? The recent reboot of Tron was a good example of how not to recreate a digital person and try to pass them off as a real person. I wasn’t looking at a young Jeff Bridges, I was looking at a behind the technology digital version of him. It was a travesty to the original move I loved as a kid and the technological boundaries they pushed in that original movie for it’s time. I have watch the evolution of gaming graphics evolve from a few pixels moving around on the screen in pong, into the near photorealism today. And watching it unfold continues to make me wonder. How far can we go? Will we reach photorealism in gaming, graphics so good that scenes and objects are indistinguishable from real life? I believe it’s closer than some people may think. If you haven’t seen the Unreal 4 in engine environment demos I’ve linked to a few below. I was showing an advertising agency the Unreal Paris demo when their videographer walked in. He though we where looking at live 360 video footage. He was blown away that he was looking at a game engine. It’s when I see people being fooled that lets me know that we are getting close to overcoming the uncanny valley.