1st Edition

The Uncanny Valley in Games and Animation

By Angela Tinwell Copyright 2015
    236 Pages 10 Color & 1 B/W Illustrations
    by A K Peters/CRC Press

    Advances in technology have enabled animators and video game designers to design increasingly realistic, human-like characters in animation and games. Although it was intended that this increased realism would allow viewers to appreciate the emotional state of characters, research has shown that audiences often have a negative reaction as the human likeness of a character increases. This phenomenon, known as the Uncanny Valley, has become a benchmark for measuring if a character is believably realistic and authentically human like. This book is an essential guide on how to overcome the Uncanny Valley phenomenon when designing human-like characters in digital applications.

    In this book, the author provides a synopsis of literature about the Uncanny Valley phenomenon and explains how it was introduced into contemporary thought. She then presents her theories on its possible psychological causes based on a series of empirical studies. The book focuses on how aspects of facial expression and speech can be manipulated to overcome the Uncanny Valley in character design.

    The Uncanny Valley in Games and Animation presents a novel theory that goes beyond previous research in that the cause of the Uncanny Valley is based on a perceived lack of empathy in a character. This book makes an original, scholarly contribution to our current understanding of the Uncanny Valley phenomenon and fills a gap in the literature by assessing the biological and social roots of the Uncanny Valley and its implications for computer-graphics animation.

    Author Biography

    The Uncanny Valley
    Experience of the Uncanny
    Bukimi no Tani—The Uncanny Valley
    Critical Studies of the Uncanny Valley in Games and Animation

    Previous Investigation into the Uncanny Valley
    Design Guidelines for a Character’s Appearance
    The Effect of Movement
    Plotting the Uncanny Valley
    Lost in Translation?
    The Effect of Age and Gender on Sensitivity to the Uncanny Valley
    An Evolutionary or Developmental Phenomenon?

    Survival Horror Characters and the Uncanny
    Early Sound Cinema
    Survival Horror versus Horror Film
    Facial Expression
    Speech Qualities
    Articulation of Speech
    Designing for or against the Uncanny

    Uncanny Facial Expression of Emotion
    Universal Emotions
    Facial Action Coding System
    Nonverbal Communication
    False or Fabricated Emotion
    The Effect of Emotion Type on Uncanniness
    Uncanny Emotion: Fear and Surprise
    Sadness and Anthropomorphism
    Disgust, Revulsion and the Nose Wrinkler Action
    Our Perceptual Advantage to Anger
    Happiness and Uncanny False Smiles

    Applying Psychological Plausibility to the Uncanny Valley
    Previous Psychological Explanations of the Uncanny Valley
    Empathy and Humanity
    Perception of Antisocial Personality Traits in an Uncanny Character
    Lack of Visual Startle Reflex and Psychopathy
    Aberrant Facial Expression and Perception of Psychopathy
    The Effect of Character Gender and Age on Uncanniness
    Antisocial Traits in Antipathetic Characters

    The Mind’s Mirror and the Uncanny
    Mirror Neuron Activity
    Facial Mimicry and Emotional Contagion
    A Lack of Facial Mimicry in Humans
    Facial Mimicry in Relational Human-Like Characters
    The Uncanny in Humans

    Attachment Theory and Threat to Self-Concept (Ego)
    Reflection of the Self
    Self, Identity and Attachment Theory
    Protest, Despair and Detachment Behavior
    Threat to Self-Concept (Ego)
    Objective Quantification of Uncanniness and Future Work
    Do We All Experience the Uncanny in Human-Like Characters?

    Will We Ever Overcome the Uncanny Valley?
    Overcoming the Uncanny: A Question of Time?
    The Uncanny Wall
    The Human and Financial Cost of Uncanny Human-Like Characters
    The Future: A Human-Like Virtual Newborn


    Dr. Angela Tinwell's research on the Uncanny Valley in human-like characters is recognized at an international level. As well as British media coverage on BBC television and radio, her work has been featured in news articles for The Guardian and Times Higher Education and in the American magazines Smithsonian, New Yorker, and IEEE Spectrum Magazine. In 2012, Tinwell completed her PhD dissertation, titled "Viewer Perception of Facial Expression and Speech and the Uncanny Valley in Human-Like Virtual Characters," and she has since published extensive studies on the topic. Her publications include empirical studies in the journal Computers in Human Behavior and theoretical writings for Oxford University Press. Tinwell's research into the Uncanny Valley in human-like characters is relevant in academia and industry, and she has presented her work with animators from the special effects company Framestore at the London Science Museum. As part of the Digital Human League, Tinwell is working with visual effects professionals at Chaos Group (creators of V-Ray rendering software) aimed at overcoming the Uncanny Valley.

    "It synthesizes the literature about the Uncanny Valley, explains its psychological foundations, and considers how facial expression and other facets can be applied to overcome the issues, and it also provides a new theory to compliment other writings on the subject, making this a 'must' for gaming programmers, covering both prior surveys and new ideas."
    Midwest Book Review