Uncanny Valley Update- The Avatars Are Among Us

19 08 2008

From the Times Online.

Image Metrics, a company which makes computer animation for movies and games like GTA 4 has a major new breakthrough in delivering high quality lifelike facial animation. They make realistic animated avatars using a new motion-tracking camera system which is a significant advancement over previous marker-based systems.

Eww, creepy.

Eww, creepy.

The challenge with animation of the human face is how to make it realistic without suffering from the “uncanny valley” effect, in which an image that is so close to realistic, but just shy of completely real, causes a negative reaction in the viewer, similar to the revulsion one experiences viewing a corpse.   This uncanny valley has long been a barrier to completely immersive experience in games and movies.  The wooden rendering of Tom Hanks in The Polar Express is a high-profile example.  His face and voice are widely known, so hearing his voice emerge from an expressionless “ventriloquist’s dummy” had the effect of turning off most viewers of the film.

But now it seems the uncanny valley may start to lose it’s population of zombies, corpses, mannequins and monsters.  As this technology and others like it come online in the next few years, computer renderings of people that are indistinguishable from real people will become commonplace.  and the age of the mediasapien will truly begin.  A complete disruption will occur that replaces all on-camera talent (actors, newscasters, athletes, etc…) with hyper-realistic digital representations, and real-life actors will be reduced to organic input devices.  Can the age of the Mediasapien be far behind?

Read the whole story and see the amazing video HERE.


No Mortgage Crisis in the Uncanny Valley

11 08 2008

As a frequent longtime visitor to the Uncanny Valley, I have watched  as this surreal little neighborhood grew from a few sketchy transient squatters into a full-blown gentrified hotspot.  Since I first started visiting, the population has ballooned with an astounding diversity.  Each week it seems, a whole new species of anthropomorphic something-or-other starts establishing a presence in the local community.  The Uncanny Valley is starting to look a lot like San Francisco.  


Where else are you likely to find Japanese hostess socializing with video game canines, or take a walk in the woods with a big dog, or attend a lecture by  professor Hiroshi Ishiguru. And we can proudly boast of being Yul Brynner free since 1976.

Yes, life here in the Uncanny Valley is pretty sweet.  Does that mean we should be expecting a housing bubble?  So far, it seems like the opposite.  Prices are dropping and there’s plenty of room.  Mortgages are easy to get and interest rates at an all time low.  It’s no surprise that people do whatever they can do be here, even if they can only enter as day laborors.  But those hopeful types will have a chance soon enough to make the transition full time.  And I for one welcome them with open arms.