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Visual Culture: The Uncanny Valley

August 13, 2011

This is a media theory concept that everyone should be familiar with.  A Japanese roboticist named Masahiro Mori first described The Uncanny Valley when he noticed that people had a revulsion of and recoiled from manufactured things that looked or acted too human.  A viewer hits The Uncanny Valley when something comes too close to resembling a human but is lifeless. If you are involved in art and design, you have a lot to benefit from learning about this concept and how it affects people’s perceptions.

”.. meaning that The Uncanny Valley has the same roots as good, old-fashioned racism.”

Absolutely watch this short three and a half minute video that explains what The Uncanny Valley is, how it fits into human evolution and how it affects representations of people in art, media, movies and daily life.  The video is humorous but the information is solid.  

So why do counterfeit humans freak us out so much?  There is another concept in the mix:

“They evoke a fear of death, dying and mortality.”

                -Karl MacDorman, Indiana University

Finally, watch this other short three and a half minute video.  It has a great examples of virtual reality design, robots and more that skim the edges of and delve into The Uncanny Valley.

Also, these Kiwis get some serious geek street cred for using the song for Marvin the Paranoid Android from the original TV series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

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