On the eve of Rockstar’s latest game release LA Noire I ponder the concept of the uncanny valley and I wonder if it’s moving. For those not in the know here is a little excerpt from the wikipedia article.
The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of robotics which holds that when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost, but not perfectly, like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. The “valley” in question is a dip in a proposed graph of the positivity of human reaction as a function of a robot’s lifelikeness.
They busted out a pretty slick graph as well that shows where certain things fall on the scale of awkwardness. Have a look.
So what does all this have to do with LA Noire? LA Noire is sporting new technology that maps faces to 3D models in a level of detail never seen before. This maps real performances from actors in to the 3D world and delivers a much more convincing, human, performance in to the game. Check this video of the technology in action.
What I noticed is that even though the level of detail of characters is higher I don’t feel particularly freaked out by that fact. Which is what leads me to the thought that the uncanny valley is moving. Much the same way older folks are weirded out and have trouble understanding new technology as more young people grow up with a certain level of detail the valley gets pushed further and further towards the realistic with out causing the discomfort described earlier.
Rockstar’s LA Noire will be ground breaking in it’s portrayal of humans in a video game and will be another step closer to the precipice that is the uncanny valley. I hope I live to see the line blurred to indistinguishable.