Tag Archives: uncanny valley

many snow white dolls

The Uncanny Valley in User Experience

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We have discussed the phenomenon of the uncanny valley here before. It is the phenomenon in which a robot or animation looks enough like a human to trigger our neural human recognition system but unhuman enough to trigger our neural mismatch/somethings wrong system (I can go into the neuroanatomy if someone asks in the comments).

Recent experiments suggest that I’m not alone in my discomfort. Colin Strong, a marketing consultant in the UK, storyboared several high tech customization scenarios, ranging from the simple (targeted direct mail) to the sophisticated, like health insurance companies crawling info on your food purchase habits to adjust your premiums. When he showed the scenarios to subjects, he found that the more personalized the services got, the more people liked them – until they got too personalized.

many snow white dolls

The Uncanny Valley

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In my visual design course last semester a student brought up the concept of the uncanny valley. The idea is that there is a U-shaped curve to the relationship between how human-like a non-human entity can be and still be accepted. If something is fully human (at the extreme right of the curve), then it is fine. If it is fully un-human (at the extreme left of the curve) then it is fine also. But at the point of the curve where it is eerily “almost human” it is rejected. At this point, it gets associated with a zombie, with disease, or with sociopathy. So it was fun to read the article contrasting R2D2 and C3PO in the May issue of Smithsonian…