On Avatars and Galaxies: The Uncanny Valley Extended

April 18, 2011

I just happened upon this blog post by Jean-Claude Heudin…


…where he takes the concept of the uncanny valley and applies it to the more general notion of representation of complexity. Very interesting observation.

Jean-Claude sez: “if a very small detail can transform an empathic avatar into a monster, it can also substantially decrease the benefits of a model and its representation“.

As I point out in my book, the uncanny valley concept applies to expression and movement as well as appearances. I have long suspected that the uncanny valley might apply to other things as well. It might have a more fundamental explanation. Jean-Claude appears to be thinking in this larger, more general realm.

One conclusion is this: human cultural evolution requires us to manage more and more complexity. We cannot do this given the tools that genetic evolution has given us….unless we design the right representations that filter complex phenomena in the right way for us to understand them, and act upon them.

Building engaging virtual worlds and designing data visualizations to explain colliding galaxies are both constrained by one thing: delivering some subset of the phenomenon – well-chosen and well-crafted – for the human mind to grasp…sympathetically.