The Uncanny Valley Effect: A Very, Very Disconcerting Realistic 3D Animation

July 31, 2013 | Julia Dawidowicz

The “uncanny valley effect” is an Aesthetics hypothesis referring to the strong discomfort and revulsion we feel when observing subjects that look and move almost, but not perfectly, like natural human beings. It explains the prevalence of zombies and talking dolls in horror movies, and it’s something that plagues professionals in fields from robotics to 3D computer animation to plastic surgery. It’s this phenomenon that artist Mike Pelletier wanted to probe and invoke with his 3D software-generated piece Parametric Expressions.

After some experimentation with the open-source 3D human characterization program Makehuman (basically a super advanced version of The Sims), Pelletier became intrigued by the results he saw when he pushed his characters’ expressions to extreme levels.

“The distortion comes from mixing the expressions far past their normal limits, until they become something completely different and beautiful,” he tells Wired UK.

The animation you see above of androgynous, unpolished, mirror-image cyborgs ebbing between relatable human likeness to unfamiliar monstrosities, is the result of Pelletier’s experimenting. It’s strange, hypnotic, terrifying art. Try and keep a straight face while watching.