Starting the exploration of the Uncanny Valley

Starting the exploration of the Uncanny Valley

February 11, 2013

After the last half year full of trouble and many events, I’m beginning with my doctoral studies at the University of Stuttgart. It is a great honor for me to be in the research group of doctoral students in the collegue “Digital Media” and be part of a scholarship for three years. Subject of my research is the Uncanny Valley and writing a thesis in the next 3-5 years. Unfortunately, I must reduce my freelance work and academic employment at the Stuttgart Media University of course.

Subject

Content of my thesis is the famous theory from Masahiro Mori, a Japanese roboticist. The term describes the eerie feeling by observing figures (android robots, dolls and computer animated characters) that looks familiar until a special point of realism or antropomophism is reached where some imperfections of appearance and motions make them look uncanny. Until today there are no secured scientific explantions or empirical evidences for its existence, some have failed at all. I will analyze this interdisciplinary problem from the point of view of a computer graphic artist.

Figure 1: Unpleasant feelings evoked by more realism

Goals

The exploration of the uncanny valley phenomenon is an interdisciplinary research where information technology encountered on human perception and psychology on computer generated images, dolls and robotics. The relations between human likeness and perceived familiarity, appearance and behaviour are the questions which I attend to myself. Some core goals of my research:

  • Definition, Evaluation, Occurence
  • Significance of
    • Human faces, body and emotions
    • Movements and interactions
    • Gestures and postures
    • Behaviour and AI
  • Explaning feelings and thoughts of observers
  • Medical explanations
  • The U.V. in Computer Generated Images
  • The U.V. in Robotics / Dolls
  • Prediction with mathematical term
  • Ways out of the valley by design, psychology and techniques

Another unanswered question is the role of the mirror neurons and their emotional islands, which have a significant impact on our emotional participation and are often associated with autism and Asperger syndrome. I think this will be a very exciting research and I hope to enjoy to write more about this and to work together with amazing people.

Photo Screenshot from: http://www.cubo.cc/creepygirl/