the unhappy valley

I’m not sure how many uber nerds read my blog… probably just one, and he is me, but still. I’ve been a big fan of science fiction for a long time. First book I ever read cover to cover was sci-fi and digging a little deeper, focused on robots. Writers like Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Orson Scott Card, forged a good part of my love for science in general and science fiction specifically.

As technology advances, the things that seemed like total fiction or fantasy become closer to being our reality. To me that’s an amazing exhibition of human ingenuity. For others, it is a step closer to the brink of total annihilation. Robots apparently are one of the many reasons Luddites fear the future and fear a world in which robots exist.

I recently became aware of this mask. Now, on the surface, its just a mask, but extrapolating from the point at which the mask is possible, one can conceivably see how that realistic mask could be used to further the lifelike appearance of robotic beings. An article published recently about life like masks touches upon something that I’ve been highly interested in for as long as my imagination started exploring the possibilities of sentient machines… The Uncanny Valley.

It is an interesting exploration of a number of different things, but the focus is the idea as a robot is made more humanlike in its appearance and motion, the emotional response from a human being to the robot will become increasingly positive and empathic, until a point is reached beyond which the response quickly becomes that of strong revulsion.

Anyone who has watched computer animation evolve has probably at one point or another felt a strong, if brief, feeling of creepiness when watching the screen. Such CGI films as Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within or Beowulf will not only leave you awestruck at the realism, but quite possibly a little heebed out by something that isn’t easily categorized. Now you know… You’re dipping into the Uncanny Valley.