Browse Definitions:
Definition

uncanny valley

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

The uncanny valley is a common unsettling feeling people experience when androids (humanoid robots) and audio/visual simulations closely resemble humans in many respects but are not quite convincingly realistic.

The phenomenon is a consideration in a number of areas of design including robotics, video game art, training simulators and 3-D animation. Depending on the intent, a designer may want to avoid the uncanny valley or exploit it to elicit a particular response.

The uncanny valley is named for the way the viewer's level of comfort drops as a simulation approaches, but does not reach, verisimilitude. Simulations lacking aspects that significantly approach reality don't tend to elicit the response. On the other hand, simulations that simulate reality to a degree that satisfies the viewer don't bring about the effect either. Near-realism and mixes of realism and surrealism most often cause the eerie sensation. The effect is intensified if the simulation is moving.

A plotted graph of viewer response to increased realism illustrates the uncanny valley (Definition continues below the graph):

 uncanny valley graph

The feelings diagrammed in the uncanny valley can reach extreme levels like revulsion, exceeding those experienced when viewing a corpse. The uncanny valley is experienced at different levels by different individuals, mostly depending on the familiarity of the subject materials. Designers can bridge the valley with changes like the addition of cartoon-like or "cuter" features.

The uncanny valley phenomenon is usually spoken of in reference to human simulations but also can be brought about by Photoshopped images, dolls, teddy bears and subjects of plastic surgery. The uncanny valley can also be created by discrepancies in voice, movement or appearance.

Masahiro Mori, at that time a robotics professor, wrote about the effect in a 1970 essay, Bukimi no Tani, which translates roughly as valley of eeriness. At that time, humanoid robots had yet to be developed. Mori was intrigued by the uneasy feeling that wax figures had always evoked in him. The English term uncanny valley was first mentioned in a 1978 book by Jasia Reichardt called "Robots: Fact, Fiction, and Prediction."

Popular Science explores the uncanny valley:

This was last updated in February 2016

Continue Reading About uncanny valley

Join the conversation

1 comment

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

Interesting article.. I am tinkering with 3D modeling and game development myself currently. Give me something to think about.
Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

SearchCompliance

  • smart contract

    A smart contract, also known as a cryptocontract, is a computer program that directly controls the transfer of digital currencies...

  • risk map (risk heat map)

    A risk map, also known as a risk heat map, is a data visualization tool for communicating specific risks an organization faces. A...

  • internal audit (IA)

    An internal audit (IA) is an organizational initiative to monitor and analyze its own business operations in order to determine ...

SearchSecurity

SearchHealthIT

SearchDisasterRecovery

  • incident management plan (IMP)

    An incident management plan (IMP), sometimes called an incident response plan or emergency management plan, is a document that ...

  • crisis communication

    Crisis communication is a method of corresponding with people and organizations during a disruptive event to provide them with ...

  • Zerto

    Zerto is a storage software vendor that specializes in enterprise-class business continuity and disaster recovery in virtual and ...

SearchStorage

  • network-attached storage (NAS)

    Network-attached storage (NAS) is dedicated file storage that enables multiple users and heterogeneous client devices to retrieve...

  • SSD write cycle

    An SSD write cycle is the process of programming data to a NAND flash memory chip in a solid-state storage device.

  • data storage

    Data storage is the collective methods and technologies that capture and retain digital information on electromagnetic, optical ...

Close