Coming through the uncanny valley?

By December 17, 2007 No Comments

My daughter Eira was watching kids TV programme Ernie the Engine on Saturday and I was struck by how lifelike the faces on the animated characters are.  They were lifelike and not at all disconcerting – so much so that I was left wondering whether children’s TV characters are coming through the uncanny valley.

I had a look on YouTube and Daily Motion to find a clip for you – but all I could find was this Ernie video where somebody is shooting the TV – should be enough to give you an idea though.

The programme led to the following thought train:

  • Maybe kids have a different view to adults on the uncanny valley – when my wife saw the programme she thought the characters were a freaky – i.e. still firmly in the depths of the valley, and there was a scene where they were dancing which I also thought was definitely a bit odd
  • If different groups can think about these things differently then crossing the uncanny valley become much more feasible – you can do it by finding the group that will most easily accept your advanced product and build a business around them which funds the development which will make your robot/avatar super realistic and acceptable to everyone
  • Going back to the analogy with privacy and targeted advertising you might be able to apply the same logic – build a great service on which people willingly accept highly targeted advertising as the cost of free usage and build out from there – that might get through the current impasse where privacy is a very emotional all-or-nothing black and white issue