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7 January, 2008

Uncanny valley

I've been mentioning my interest in photorealism (especially in CGI) for years, so I was pleased to discover this fairly long article by Peter Plantec, clinical psychologist and 'virtual human designer'.

It addresses the concept of the 'uncanny valley'.
Imagine a graph of photorealism against believability. As the first increases, so will the second, the line rising towards the 'peak' of perfect reproduction, but just before that point, believability will suddenly plummet. That's the 'valley', the point at which representation approaches actuality very closely but not quite. The human brain recoils, perversely finding the result less believable than something more obviously artificial; an audience can more readily suspend disbelief whilst watching 'The Simpsons' than whilst watching 'Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within'.

Motion-captured/animated animated films like 'Beowulf' are getting better (and setting themselves especially difficult targets by reproducing the likenesses of specific people – I hadn't thought of that complication), but as Plantec says, the next stages will need to focus on extremely subtle details such as saccadic (rapid, subconscious) eye movement.

[Via Neil G.]

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