Uncanny Valley

What does Uncanny Valley mean?

When robots look too much like humans, it gets creepy for us – that’s the ‘Uncanny Valley’

Uncanny Valley is a term that talks about how people feel uncomfortable or freaked out by robots that look almost exactly like humans, but have some artificial qualities that make them seem off or spooky. This idea was first introduced by a scholar named Hiroshi Ishiguro in the 1970s.

Ishiguro came up with a chart that showed how people’s liking for robots increased as they became more human-like. But, there’s a point where the robot is so close to looking like a human, yet still not completely, and this is where people’s liking for the robot takes a dive. This dip is what he calls the “uncanny valley.”

The “uncanny valley” effect happens when a robot looks and behaves almost exactly like a human, but something about it is not quite right. For instance, a robot might look like a human, but it takes a little too long to respond to a question, or its face doesn’t match what it’s saying. These off characteristics make the robot creepier.

After the drop in the graph, the liking for robots starts to increase again once the robot becomes almost indistinguishable from a real human. However, there are some people who think that the term “uncanny valley” should be changed to “uncanny cliff.” They believe that people will never be able to fully accept a robot that looks like a human.

The concept of the uncanny valley isn’t just about robots. It can also be used to describe other things that look human, but aren’t. This could include wax figures, mannequins, and even prosthetic limbs. Additionally, the world of computer-generated effects is often a place where you can find examples of the uncanny valley.

For example, sometimes in video games or movies, the 3D models of humans can look a bit creepy. A great example of this is the 2019 movie version of Cats, where the characters were quite unsettling to some viewers.

Many science fiction works

Example for using ‘Uncanny Valley’ in a conversation

Hey, have you seen that new robot they made? It looks so realistic!

Yeah, I’ve heard about it. They say it’s in the uncanny valley.

What’s the uncanny valley?

It’s when robots look almost human, but there’s something off about them that makes them creepy.