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Heavy Rain in the "Uncanny Valley" [update 1]


Clive Thompson over at collision detection has spotted a very bad example of the "Uncanny Valley" rearing its ugly head (literally) in the trailer for the upcoming PS3 game, Heavy Rain, the sequel to Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy. The theory of the "Uncanny Valley", realized by Japanese robotics engineer Masahiro Mori, states that people's attitudes towards robots (or in-game characters) will become negative at the point at which the model is regarded as "almost human". Characters that lie within the valley are technically realistic, but their subtle differences compared to real humans freak us out.

This trailer well and truly scrapes the bottom of the valley: the poor lip animation, the glazed eyes and the lifeless skin combine to make the model look like a mash-up of Sofia Coppola and a deformed porcelain doll (ouch!). Now that console hardware is capable of near-CGI quality graphics, game developers and artists better watch their backs if they don't want to unintentionally scare their customers. As for designers of horror games, they can quite happily add another tool to their belt.

[Via collision detection]

Update: added an extra word that restored sense to the sentence (and to life, the universe and everything).

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