Uncanny Valley

What is the Uncanny Valley concept?

The point where human-like robots appear creepy to humans

Uncanny valley is a concept that describes the tendency for humans to become weirded out by robots when they appear life-like but also display an artificial characteristic that makes them creepy. The term was coined in the 1970s by Masahiro Mori, who was a professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology at the time.

The Uncanny Valley Graph

Masahiro created a graph to illustrate the human response to robots as they closer resemble human beings. In the graph, humans' affinity towards robots grows as the robots become more human-like. However, there is a dip in affinity when the robot approaches 70-95% human-likeness. This dip led Masahiro to call it the "uncanny valley."

The cause for the uncanny valley is when robots are very close to resembling a human being but some characteristic does not match an actual human characteristic. For example, a robot may look exactly like a human, but its response to questions is delayed or the facial expression does not match its tone of speech.

Once the robot's appearance passes the 70-95% threshold of human-likeness, the human affinity in the graph resumes the upward trajectory it was on before the dip. Some critics argue that the uncanny valley should actually be called the "uncanny cliff." They say that the upward trajectory of the human affinity aspect will never resume because they believe humans will never accept an artificial human being.

Other applications of the Uncanny Valley

The uncanny valley can also be applied to things other than robots, such as wax figures, mannequins, and prosthetic limbs. Computer-generated special effects have also become a hotbed for uncanny valley examples. Some examples include creepy 3D models of humans in video games and film special effects, like those in the bizarre 2019 film adaptation of Cats.

Portrayals of the Uncanny Valley in film

Many works of science fiction have revolved around the human response that the uncanny valley illustrates. Many of these works are films, which include Metropolis, the Blade Runner films, The Terminator films, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and Ex Machina.

Example

"I was watching Westworld the other day and I couldn't help being weirded out by the idea of such realistic robots."
"Agreed. That's what we call the uncanny valley."
"Ok, nerd."
Masahiro Mori's graph

Masahiro Mori's graph

Related Slang

Usage

Last Updated: April 23, 2020

Uncanny Valley definition

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