Saturday, October 08, 2005

I can see your pores.

Welcome to the SL Uncanny Valley. Land of hyper realistic avatars and photo referenced everything.

The idea of the "uncanny valley" was thought up by Japanese roboticist Doctor Masahiro Mori. Mori came to the realization that people respond better to the images of a non human Robot, than one that attempts to be as human as possible. People would respond better to a 6 legged non humanoid robot than this slightly more human robot (I saw an early prototype of this at NASA, nifty!), and they may respond negatively to a robot like this. We are human, one of the best things we know is eachother. We may not realize it but we are all experts on people. So Final Fantasy may be less appealing to you than say Monsters Inc. (ok maybe that image isn't the best to pick...) What about something looking slightly "more human than human" gives us the willies?

So how does this fit into Second Life? Are our avatars too real? When I played There many people spoke of how "ugly" the avatars were in Second Life. I think if you are coming from a spoon fed cartoon world to a world with as much detail as Second Life offers it can be a bit jarring and people may need a while to get used to it.

We have the ability to make our avatars look near photo realistic if we wish. But how real is too real? I have a good friend that is very sensitive to an avatars appearance. And skins can make someone look a little TOO real for him. Some people don't care for Mo-Cap. But still others want Second Life as real as possible.

I think that's what separates Second Life from other virtual worlds, MMOS, and chat environments. Tailor your experience to yourself. Theres room for everyone.


  1. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was more like THE SPIRITS WITHOUT. It, a garble of tasteless tripe, was full of godless freaks (I'm referring to the characters here), and not only was it a betrayal of the games themselves on which it was very, very loosely inspired, it was just a boring piece of !@#$. Infact, it was so bad for me that I don't even bother to italicize the name. No Nobuo? Bad vibes right there. SCROO IT!

    Now, Advent Children—that is a completely different, and I'm happy to say—positive story.

    Okay, moving on...

    I just think some peeps just the shocker when they come in here and see all the subcultures collide. I've seen Resis counting off to themselves, "Human, human, human... AHHH! Giant bird!... human, human, human... AHHH! Robot!..." It's quite comedic at times to see the reaction. I like to see someone taken on a wild ride and emerge from it with much growth. Personal challenges, which are a part of any online world, any game. There's a learning curve, absorbing new sensory data... and soforth!

    I don't think Second Life's human avatars (as modelled from the stock ones) are that realistic. For one, scaling and proportions in our world are off, and for another, a lot of motion has yet to be improved on... noticeable things like the glitchy stutters before an AO kicks in remind us that this is not offline. Even with photosourced textures mapped on, we're getting nearer and nearer, but still, I love all the contortions and wild distortions of a virtual reality that we can perform in here. Like flying!


    P.S. The Roy Batty image doesn't allow hyperlinking. And I wish this comment field was bigger! :)

  2. I think this is a fascinating topic. It is particularly interesting for me, having a newborn and seeing how encoded facial pattern recognition is in the human system. I think that is the first half of what unnerves people -- we look for things that are not there.

    When it comes to the robots, I can see also see why some would get uncomfortable looking at something almost human but knowing it is not. The old "it's not natural" heebeejeebees. But does this count when you know there is a human behind the avatar?

    I was also thinking that great art is not photo-representational but leaves something to the imagination. Look at Rembrandt's fingers and you might be surprised at how much detail he left out. Photo-representational art, on the other hand, typically looks flat and artificial. But this argument doesn't stick with me either.

    My personal opinion is that SL avatars have a long way to go. As an artist I do a lot of figurative work and see beauty in the human form. I think our 3D meshes are pretty crude, and would like to see us advance further in potential realism. With advances that enable realistic avatars, we will also see even more beautiful wild, exotic and imaginative avatars. Let beauty and expression run free!

  3. I had this deep, insightful comment that the blog monster just ate as I tried to post it.

    Here are the salient points:

    1. I'm intrigued by the uncanny valley.
    2. What are we seeing, I wonder, that resonated so sharply with us when we see a 99% realistic av? What's cluing us in and making us so uncomfortable?
    3. I've found I prefer the slighty more cartoony/painterly style of Toast Bard skins for this exact reason.
    4. Forseti had a great point with his photo-representational art comment.
    5. Welcome to the SLOG Launa!